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Wednesday, 18 January 2012

NEVER DID ME ANY HARM devised by Force Majeure and dissected by me

Our next Sydney Festival offering playing in Wharf 1 at STC, ‘Never Did Me Any Harm’, uses a fusion of physical theatre (when did we start calling this dance theatre- I’m so out of the loop) and verbatim techniques to explore the subject of parenting with a focus on disciplining children.

Kate Champion’s direction and the company mind of Force Majeure have managed to devise a creative vision of the perils of over-parenting. I mean, we’ve all had those conversations about the lack of resilience in children and how parents want to be their children’s best friends instead of an authority in the household. Letting children fail now seems to be heresy and this was beautifully communicated in the piece. I’m sure complaining about young people and how they are raised is the clichéd commentary of every generation but no less relevant today than it ever was. So I have no doubt every parent watching this show will shift a little uncomfortably in their seat at times, nod knowingly in others and laugh at the recounts expressed overall.

There is an energy and passion to this devised work, especially in the comedy of the direct audience addresses. Vincent Crowley’s rants regarding the cotton wool of parenting or ‘helicopter parenting’ strikes a chord with the predominantly middle-aged audience. There were also some more poignant moments but mostly in this 65 minute show, the voices you’ll hear will amuse you. It is the movement that carries more implied depth, especially in the collaborative pieces where connection and relationships between performers is at its clearest.

The design is also well utilised- the suburban backyard, full of adventure but fenced in and sanitised to all who inhabit it. The sense of play was engaging and its stifling of this same play demonstrated the piece’s intent. The lighting, sound and projections are also impressive, although I should add that depending on where you are seated will affect your ability to really appreciate this. I think this is one of the shows you need to be seated central to the action and not shafted into the far stage left hand corner- I really struggled to see all the graphics and many were lost in execution.

Andrew Upton served as dramaturg on this show and I must say this is where he does his best work. I wish he’d do more of this and less directing. As a dramaturg and translator, Upton is at home in the theatre world. He has something to offer that can enhance the work of a show. I’m yet to see that translate into his work as a director. Let’s see what he has to offer in 2012.

‘Never Did Me Any Harm’ strikes me as a show with great potential that is almost there and audience won’t be disappointed by what they do see. It is polished and enjoyable but feels like it is 15 minutes short of being complete. But perhaps that’s how devised Dance Theatre is. I’m sure someone will be kind enough to let me know.

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