Review :: Human Interest Story @ Belvoir

September 6th 2011


Human Interest Story is Australian choreographer Lucy Guerin's latest creation and uses the language of dance to re-present ideas about the role of news media in our lives. It is a somewhat disconcerting work exploring the way we, as people living in a privileged stable nation, synthesise and reconcile the knowledge – and the responsibility to know – about devastating events that occur around the world. The work aims to reorient how we perceive and receive the news, and explores the relationship between what's going on externally with what's going on within ourselves.

This is effectively realised by Guerin's signature mix of theatricality and contemporary dance. Where theatre is arguably a more external – vocal – art-form, dance is traditionally perceived to be an elusive, internal medium of expression, harder to articulate with words. The 70-minute piece opens powerfully with a combination of spoken word and tightly synchronised movement that directly parodies the body language of news presenters. Current news stories form the thematic basis for the work, and SBS newsreader Anton Enus even makes a comical on-screen guest appearance.

As the piece progresses, the dancers become increasingly incoherent and their words are reduced to gibberish grunts and media catchphrases as their bodies become consumed with media overstimulation. The choreography descends into a rich visual language of stuttering, jittering sequences that repeat over and over again, accompanied by sound designer Jethro Woodward's ominous, sparse soundscape that references media static, battlefield soundclips and muffled reporting. Stephanie Lake is a particular stand-out, though the troupe of six performers work seamlessly together.

Unfortunately, the camouflage tank-tops and performance-blacks are a bit obvious and uninspired as far as costuming goes, and a scripted attempt to break the fourth wall breaks the flow of the work three-quarters of the way through. But overall, Guerin's idea to critique and reconstruct the relationship between media and dance languages has resulted in new visual and conceptual patterns which are exciting to watch and refreshingly relevant.

Also – I just have to mention this – there is a life-sized army tank that sits in shadow by the edge of the stage during the entire performance and nobody ever says anything about it or references it in any direct way. Acting as an elephant in the room, it adds a wonderful feeling of disconcerting absurdity to the whole work.

What: Human Interest Story by Lucy Guerin Inc

Where: Belvoir Street Theatre, 25 Belvoir St, Surry Hills

How Much: $39-$59


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