I am reminded of the classroom scene in Donnie Darko (2001) where an insufferable teacher insists the entirety of human emotion can be divided into two polar extremes: Fear and Love. Kosok’s The Creature invites you to dance with disappointment whereas Noy’s Everything is Love is a warm, family photo album brought to life.
Elekis Poblete Teirney’s minimal lighting and Kosok and Flynn Mehlhopt’s sound design perfectly conveys The Creature’s eerie world. Soft blue lights capture the dry-ice smoke and reveal striking silhouettes. Rain soundscapes compliment the cool concrete smell of Te Whaea’s Basement Theatre. Each with their own hand-held lamp, four dancers explore the dark. One by one they disappear into the abyss.
Having lost the others, stand out performer Tessa Redman is draped in a pale green spotlight. She convulses in her choreography as if pulled by invisible, insidious strings. The creature emerges. Constructed by bamboo sticks and black cloth, the giant puppet stands 3 meters tall and is operated by the remaining cast.
The monster inspects our protagonist. Like an organic hulking machine, it moves with slow and arachnid-like steps. The creature looms over Tessa as she talks in melancholy poems. While rolling a durry, Tessa casually asks the creature for a light. I wanted to see more mundane in the madness. These moments of levity made for memorable, layered exchanges.
The Creature owes itself a stronger end. After the marvel of the puppet and big impact from simple but slick lighting illusions, I expected more than the fizzle I felt in the show’s last moments.
Green apple slices sprinkled with chilli powder are offered to the audience during the interval. Little did I know, my new favourite snack was given to me by the next chapter’s performers.
The minimal set design of Everything is Love hints at a family sitting room. A television is set up stage left and mixed-matched cushions are placed at the front of the stage. Noy is joined by his mother, father and incredibly cute 12-year-old sister. His brother even makes an appearance via the television.
While the themes of The Creature explore the internal struggle of the individual, Noy’s performance celebrates the joy of family connection. The family dance together with openness and intimacy, experimenting with momentum and playful repetition.
In a particularly beautiful moment, the television plays a home video of Noy as a young boy dancing to a Hawaiian song, performed by his mother. Present-day-Noy performs the same dance next to the TV. Though now his movement is more polished, he moves with the same, child-like joy and evokes feelings of nostalgia.
Love truly is in everything. Love is in the performers’ welcome, in the movement and in the end where the audience are invited to join the dancing. The multi-media performance missed the opportunity to explore the parts of family that aren’t so easy. The gratitude theme can come dangerously close to one-note.
The Creature and Everything is Love offers a balanced pair of performances. We can’t have light without the dark. Embrace fear, love and everything in between at Accepdance.
Accepdance is on at the Basement Theatre of Te Whaea dance and Drama Centre until Sunday 27 March. Book your tickets here.