Friday 29 January 2016

BOYZ - Midsumma Festival review

Your 20s are a time in your life where you finally step out into the real world and attempt to make sense of it all. For most, it includes moving out of the family home, graduating from studies and finding your place in life. Easier said than done though. Presented as part of Midsumma Festival, Paul Malek's new contemporary dance piece, BOYZ, explores what it means being a gay man in your 20s.

Whilst there is a feeling of frustration and boredom, things begin serenely enough with five males - Jayden Hicks, Samuel Harnett-Welk, Charles Ball, Lachlan Hall and Kurt Dwyer-William - living under one roof. However, the gradual exploration of their sexuality, individuality and how they fit in to a society such as ours, has them experiencing new and foreign moments. Malek incorporates some engaging storytelling through his choreography, and the characters the dancers take on maintain a sophisticated depth to them that I rarely witness in contemporary dance.

This is a physically demanding piece and expects much from its performers who are more than able to rise to the challenge, with the menage-a-trios between Ball, Hicks and Hall highlighting this better than any other sequence in BOYZ. Precision timing is required from all three, as their bodies become one but remain in constant movement. The choreography is so intricate, that if one arm or one leg is misplaced even for a second, it would visibly disrupt the flow they have created.

There is a strong Dionysian influence throughout BOYZ, for just like the excesses of the Greek God of wine and ecstasy, the moments shared on stage are highly intense and passionate, whether it be through drugs, dancing, or with each other. Look deeper and you can see that while these events and the transition into manhood can potentially cause harm and tragedy, they can also be viewed as an opportunity for growth and self-discovery.

The choreography is perfectly timed to music by Danish electronic musician, Trentemøller, which at various times sounds like a rapidly beating heart that's about to explode. The basic and simple set design by Chris Curran, consisting of a white sofa, table and chairs, is the perfect contrast to the frenetic nature of the characters' experiences, and together with Curran and Hicks' costuming and Craig Boyes' lighting design, create some evocative aesthetic moments.

While the ending is fitting in itself, with the dancers collapsing into slumberous exhaustion from all they have gone through, it is at a much slower pace than the rest of the show, and as such the overall impact of BOYZ lessens. Cutting the length of the finale would still allow for Malek's desired effect but would also still have us completely engaged with the piece.

BOYZ is a hypnotic and honest performance piece that regardless of sex and sexuality, audiences can still relate to in appreciating the feelings and emotions these five dancers go through. From Malek's perspective, the world can be a big scary place when you're set free in it but it's the experiences we have, both good and bad, that will ultimately decide who we are and how we can find what we are looking for in life.

Click here for my interview with Paul Malek about BOYZ.

Venue: Transit Dance, 2/10 Elizabeth St, Kensington
Season: Until 30 January | Wed - Sat 8.30pm
Tickets: $30 Full | $22 Conc
Bookings: Midsumma Festival

* Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 29 January

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