Melbourne Fringe 2016

The Sequel, Melbourne Fringe 2016

0 Comments 26 September 2016

Words by Eliza Janssen 

There’s a full reservoir of saliva in my mouth, but I’m afraid that with the agonising silence on stage, a gulp would get too much attention; sounds of other audience members swallowing and shifting convince me to hold out. Finally, the cast of dance piece The Sequel give in, and begin to chant, “I’ve been thinking about fucking you for the last five minutes.”

There are four voices in this nasty choir; Chloe Chignell, Chad McLachlan, Nat Abbott and choreographer Leah Landau. The ensemble proves to be inappropriately well-balanced for a performance so obsessed with the decay of conversation and interaction. If popular opinion is to be believed, sequels are never as good as the original, and The Sequel considers what human motion might look like in a sequel of society, where miscommunication and monotony reign.

This vision is never made literal, but there are a handful of sci-fi references which support the bizarre deconstruction of Landau’s choreography. All four dancers first unite to a soundtrack typically found in summer action blockbuster trailers; big cinematic strings and sporadic explosions. On the first beat of every bar, each dancer strikes a superhuman pose, aiming an imaginary laser at the audience. It’s not the first time the viewer will feel attacked, and it definitely wasn’t the last.

That honour goes to what Chignell introduces as ‘the scripted audience performance’, in which four microphones and four scripts are passed around the assembly to construct a chorus of reluctant voices. A couple of minutes in, the performers pop champagne and leave the stage, abandoning the new cast of paying ‘actors’ to reluctantly become the show they can’t understand. One feels somewhat orphaned.

Although the dancer’s movements are strikingly uncanny and precise, some of The Sequel’s most provocative moments, such as the ‘audience performance’, don’t utilise much dance at all. The three female dancers are seated for the concluding segment, cajoling McLachlan (offstage) to jump by braying pseudo-inspirational phrases like ‘believe in yourself!’ and ‘my arms are open for you!’. The audience laughed appreciatively at this blackly humorous segment as it became evident that McLachlan might not survive this leap of faith, a response not awarded to any former chapters of The Sequel’s skewed exhibition of breakdowns.

The brevity of the performance means some sequences are perhaps not allowed to fully develop, or form a cohesive whole with the other parts. The first two ‘movements’ feel thematically divorced from the rest of the dances, but impress visually as well as sonically. Baggy street-wear costumes in synthetic fabric act as a kind of alien percussion with the dancer’s sneakers squeal against the floorboards.

With its brisk runtime of 45 minutes, none of The Sequel’s seven segments outstay their welcome. That may in fact be the secret of their disorienting affect upon the spectator; as soon as you think you’re catching onto the abstract patterns the dancers are laying down, a new narrative begins, even stranger than the last, and you’re more stranded than before.

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