Skeleton | Beckett Theatre

No stranger to hosting the weird and the wonderful, this season at the Malthouse Theatre a wonderfully grotesque ballet is gracing the stage by visionary Larissa McGowan.

Beginning her career as a winner of the Queensland Ballet Scholarship at the Victorian College of the Arts, McGowan has gone on to win numerous titles, from the Victoria College of the Arts’ most outstanding dancer and best female dancer at the Helpmann Awards. In conjunction with director/choreographer Sam Haren (Fronteras Americans/I Am Not An Animal), McGowan created Skeleton, an ensemble contemporary dance piece.

Starring Tobiah Booth-Remmers, Lisa Griffiths, Marcus Louend, Lewis Rankin and McGowan herself, it demonstrates the fragility of the human body and the complexity of the way we live our lives. The entire atmosphere has a mystic, dream-like quality, assisted by the smokey haze that hangs over the theatre. Through a series of disjointed, caricature-esque movements, the performers pop-lock their way through a story that seems to depict moments in life that are precariously on the edge, along with disturbing moments of extreme violence.

Skeleton is unconventional and at times distressing; it confronts the audience with rage, despair and disintegration, with women getting hit by baseball bats and men’s bones shattering and cascading from their bodies. If you can stomach it, it’s definitely worth it.

The props of Skeleton are minimal, but the set very nicely juxtaposes this with an intricate use of audio and visuals. Designed by Jonathon Oxlade (Attack of the Attacking Attackers, Still Awake Still!), it is downright peculiar, but dominantly contributes to the impact of performance. Pieces of the set slide horizontally across the floor, depositing props and cast members onto the stage as if by magic. The overall affect is eerie and sinister, as each prop, whether it be a shoe, bike, skateboard or bat, eventually shatters at the hands of the actors/dancers.

In addition, composer/designer Jethro Woodward (Irony Is Not Enough/Goodbye Vaudeville Charlie Mudd) has put together a superb soundtrack of music, arcade noises and film dialogue. Keep an ear out for Jurassic Park, Scream and Terminator quotes; it’s all in there for dramatic effect, culminating in a chaotic climax that leaves the audience breathless.

Part of the Dance Massive festival, Skeleton is a predatory piece that is divinely open to interpretation. Intense, dark and wildly creative, this celestial dance of body contortionist masochism is not one to miss.

The details: Skelton plays the Beckett Theatre, Malthouse until March 23. Tickets on the venue website.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey