Saturday 18 March 2023

Triptych review

Anyone who has witnessed a Phillip Adams dance work knows to expect the unexpected. Adams has a knack for creating daring and disruptive pieces that explore themes around sexuality in its rawest form. His newest work Triptych, takes inspiration from Francis Bacon’s 1970 triptych painting, Triptych, in which Bacon used distortion and fragmentation to call attention to his own ideas around love, sex and religion.

In the first of three parts, four dancers (Harrison Hall, Samuel Harnett-Welk, Benjamin Hurley and Oliver Savariego) dressed in simple yet stunning Toni Maticevski designs, spend forty minutes writhing and convulsing on a circular pink carpet to a highly piercing and penetrating score by David Chisholm and Duane Morrison. While one pair appears to have more intimate and vulnerable interactions, the other pair is more aggressive and brutal. The two pairs circle each other, and at times make physical contact with each other, indicating how civility and animal instincts can easily be interchanged, something that Bacon depicted with his art. There are times where you wonder if Adams has choreographed this or if the dancers have completely given themselves over to these urges and being spellbound by the stirring composition. It's a rare experience to watch a performance and feel such intensity permeate throughout the room and be utterly transfixed by what is unfolding. 

In the second part of this work, a video installation is projected on the floor, in which Adams takes centre stage, or to be more specific, his bum does. Various footage and stills of Adams squirting coloured paint from his anus are shown as a reference to the blood of Christ. It's an extremely bold statement, but there is a peculiar beauty and serenity in looking down and watching these colours being expelled onto the canvas.

The third part of this work is the most accessible but also the most arduous. With the four dancers returning to the room in elaborate high heels, as a fifth performer, Alexandra Dobson, reclines on a sex swing and recites text from a book. Along with the exceedingly loud music (we are given earplugs as we arrive), it becomes difficult to take in the three distinct elements and appreciate them all equally. It ends up being more of a choose your own adventure on what you follow, which for me, was the choreography and the score.

As with Bacon's triptychs, Adams' Triptych can be seen as three scenes that can be grouped together but also be considered as three individual, stand-alone acts. While the last two are unable to match the first one with not only the thoughts and impressions it conjures up, but also with how it does it, Triptych's combination of dance, performance and installation leaves a lasting image and gives rise to plenty of discussion. Through a truly queer lens, Triptych is not afraid to challenge and confront its audience with avant-garde ideas and views of spirituality and sexuality.

Triptych was performed at Temperance Hall between 15 - 18 March 2023 as part of Frame: A Biennial of Dance festival.

Image Credit:
3 Deep with Georges Antoni

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