It is warm summer’s evening where a former convent stands in the corner of an intricate vintage setting. The floor is wooden and sprung, bordered by sand on golden tissue paper to represent the edge of the seas. A 10-piece orchestra stands arm in arm with their instrument, waiting to begin in anticipation. The dancers and female opera singer Kate Bright enter most dramatically, treading as gentle as the sea breeze. 

Composer Evan Lawson’s ideas and musical direction take this narrative on a physical and emotional journey that incorporates Shakespeare, Phemocles, Alessandra Striggio, and librettos from Orfeo ed Euridice and Calzabigi and L’Orfeo. The classic Greek myth Orpheus is a tale told time and time again, but one element that seems lost in translation is the former affair Orpheus had with his male counterpart, Calais. It is within this ballet opera that Lawson aims to unveil the themes of human sexuality and gender. 

Orpheus and Calais. Photo: Kate Baker.

This four-part production allows the audience to flicker between a dream-like state and an abrupt tempo that shocks the human system. The tension is amplified with many silent moments. The orchestra offers an insightful spirit that helps the audience envision a soundscape of trauma as Orpheus makes his journey to Hades. 

It is clear the three dancers represent the opera singers’ characters of Orpheus (Raymond Khong & Ashley Dougan), Eurydice (Kate Bright & Piaera Lauritz) and Calais (Joseph Ewart & Luke Fryer). The first love interaction is between Orpheus and Calais, where the dancers perform an erotic contemporary pas de deux. Dougan’s choreography is very cemented in the contemporary style, demonstrating an abstract interpretation of the live music. 

Two Eurydices during her death scene. Photo: Kate Baker.

The opera singing is nothing short of exceptional, particularly from female lead Kate Bright. Her moment in the centre of the room is solemn, as she experiences rape, torture and death. Her ability to breath short and sharp with raw emotion is captivating.

Despite the many moments repetitiveness of content, words and movements, it does capture the underlying story—that explores in depth the emotions of loss, heartache and trauma. 

Girls Girls Girls is immediately engaging, confronting and entertaining. Unsure what to expect on entering the theatre, the audience is instantly drawn to experience the dark side of what it means to be female in modern-day Australia.

Participation in Girls Girls Girls is paramount; from the get-go, the audience is thrust into this darkly satirical examination of female expectations and insecurities. Guided by the vivacious Mistress of Ceremonies instructing everyone to ‘dress’ the mannequin-like dancers posed throughout the theatre, Curtis creates a powerful and evocative setting for the rest of the performance.

Sensuality, control, anger, love, self-hatred, desire and femininity are all explored throughout this work.

The music is diverse and contradictory, including easily recognisable works from Vivaldi, Edith Piaf and Benny Benassi. Curtis’ choreography was equally eclectic. The dancers mock convention as they challenge the stereotypes of perfection and social media falsity through complex choreography interspersed with spoken word and dramatic elements. Their ability to effortlessly swap between classical and contemporary styles of dance, from knee-high socks to sky-high heels, is indicative of their professionalism and commitment to the roles they play.

Girls Girls Girls – Photo supplied by Bonnie Curtis Projects.

Curtis takes the audience on a journey of self-exploration while examining women’s relationships, both with each other and themselves, within the constraints of modern society. Moments of manic, frantic disturbing emotion are juxtaposed with hilarious theatrics in this unconventional and moving performance.

The Victorian premiere of this award-winning show by Sydney-based Bonnie Curtis Projects faced a tough draw card on a long-weekend, school holiday, AFL Grand Final afternoon in Melbourne. However, the matinee performance was a fascinatingly intimate setting. Challenging, and sometimes uncomfortable, there was nowhere to escape from the reality of the themes explored.

Girls Girls Girls is a clever consciousness-raising performance which entertains and challenges the audience from start to finish. A powerful examination of the experiences of women in modern society, this interactive experience is well-worth sharing.

Following sold-out seasons in NSW and Queensland, the Melbourne Fringe season of Girls Girls Girls concludes with performances on Sunday 30th September at 3.00pm and 7.30pm at The Space Dance & Arts Centre, 318 Chapel St, Prahran, 3181. *$10 discount tickets are available.

Created by Bonnie Curtis in collaboration with her cast

This outstanding performance captures the attention of the audience from the moment you enter the theatre. Dancers dressed in black are displayed in a simple, incredibly intimate setting, creating immediate intrigue and wonder. Time passes in the blink of an eye as the audience is swept up in the emotion and fascination of Lake’s intricate choreography.

Colossus by Stephanie Lake Company. Photo by Mark Gambino

Opening last night to a packed house, the power of Colossus comes from the dancers’ ability to portray Lake’s vision of ‘the push and pull of humanity’. Her evocative display takes the audience on a journey of birth and growth as the dancers navigate the evolution of their collective group while desperately trying to maintain their unique individuality.

Colossus by Stephanie Lake Company. Photo by Mark Gambino

Isolated movements of fingers, feet and twitching muscles are cleverly juxtaposed with long lines and powerful movements as the dancers flow across the circular stage. Quiet moments of contracted vulnerability are challenged by the rise and fall of individual control, and the embracing expansion of the group working as a whole. Often displaying a tribal-like synchronicity, the dancers unite in their expression and energy of ‘you’, ‘me’ and ‘us’ throughout the entire performance.

Colossus by Stephanie Lake Company. Photo by Mark Gambino

Lake’s vision cleverly incorporates the use of sound. The dancers use their bodies and voices to emulate the resonance of the universe. Controlled breathing, sighs, shouts, slaps of hands, and the brushing of feet on the floor combine with the music to create a powerful, additional expression of the fight to remain unique while existing in a mass society.

Visually, the simple backdrop and white floor add a further dimension to this intricate performance. Shadows shift on the wall of fabric cocooning the group. During moments of frenetic energy, the wind of their bodies creates ripples on the cloth, and flows out to be felt by the audience. The shapes of the dancers’ bodies are echoed in their surroundings. Arms and fingers create a vine-like field of living intensity which rises and falls in a raw expression of the human need to belong.

Colossus by Stephanie Lake Company. Photo by Mark Gambino

Lake’s complex choreography combines with the incredible teamwork shown by this group of emerging young dancers to create this evocative contemporary work of art. Their passion and commitment is unquestionable, their obvious joy and pride apparent during last night’s standing ovation. A must-see performance, Colossus is a challenging and beautiful expression of humanity.

Arts Centre Melbourne in association with Melbourne Fringe presents Colossus by Stephanie Lake Company. 26-30 September 2018

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