Side To One | Riverside Theatres

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: dance and narrative aren’t natural bedfellows; it’s not a marriage made in heaven. But Side To One puts up a very credible challenge to my assertion. Lisa Griffiths and Craig Bary are behind, and in front of, the work, which very successfully seeks to explore human connectivity, as it were, particularly with regard to male-female partnerships. This is almost blackbox theatre, save for an illuminated white box (shaped something like a large rabbit-hutch) that dominates centre-stage, from which our two heroes emerge, to find each other and, over time, discover facets and compartments that probably weren’t apparent when these two opposites first attracted.

One of the most compelling scenes is one in which an oversized garment suffices as a metaphor for a veritable skin, the veneer of personae we must all transcend to really become intimate with the object of our affections. It’s an exceptionally powerful representation of the notion of soul mateship, imbued with dangerous choreography.

Dangerous? Yes, thrillingly so, in the sense that the movements are so finely-tuned, so up-close-and-personal, that one false move could see the whole work come asunder. Better yet, the design of the work is not only executed with sensational precision, but inspired and informed by great originality.

While, at times, their bodies almost breathe the same air, so unified as to be inseparable, there’s a sexual charge which culminates in conflict. We see their parting; we see them occupy quite separate spaces; we feel the disorientation of trial separation and the resumption of their relationship. Griffiths and Bary have found a very physical way to track emotion, as well as convey narrative. And they’ve hit upon bold motifs, such as the box and giant jumper.

The work comes to us from the Adelaide Festival, where Craig Bary is well-known to local audiences, in two primary contexts: Australian Dance Theatre; Leigh Warren and Dancers. But neither is he any stranger to the likes of the Royal New Zealand Ballet or Sydney dance Company. Lisa Griffiths also has form: Chunky Move; Tasdance; Leigh Warren; as well as touring extensively with Tanja Liedtke There is union, synergy and harmony, but, later, conflict and dessication. Two individuals meet, find common ground, physical and psychic resonance; then embark on the age-old struggle between individuation and couplehood. And these affiliations barely touch the sides of their curriculum vitae.

An integral part of the work is Adam Synnott’s sound and interactive design. A synthesis of programmed and live sound, much, if not all of it, stands admirably on its own merits as engaging music, but seizes brilliantly upon Griffiths’ and Bary’s robust choreographic vision. Perhaps this is because Synnott is also a dancer.

And Ben Flett’s lighting design deserves considerable credit too.

The details: Side To One played the Lennox Theatre, Riverside Theatres, on August 10-13.