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D’Arcy Andrews, Nicola Leahey, The Cry D’Arcy Andrews, Nicola Leahey, The Cry
photo Ferry Photography
THE CRY, RAEWYN HILL’S FIRST FULL-LENGTH PRODUCTION AS THE NEW ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF DANCENORTH, SEGUES FROM HER EARLIER WORK, ANGELS WITH DIRTY FEET (NEW ZEALAND, 2004). ANGELS WAS ABOUT ADDICTION, WHILE THE CRY DISSECTS THE RELENTLESS PROCESS OF RECOVERY. LIKE GAVIN WEBBER BEFORE HER, AND ROSS MCCORMACK AS GUEST CHOREOGRAPHER FOR LAST SEASON’S NOWHERE FAST, HILL FULLY EXPLOITS DANCENORTH’S HALLMARK PHYSICALITY, WHICH REMAINS CONSISTENT DESPITE AN ALMOST COMPLETE TURNOVER OF PERSONNEL IN THE PAST 18 MONTHS.

Preparation for this production included meetings with recovering addicts and the research has paid off with some remarkably insightful characterisations. The contrast between Nicola Leahey’s twittering Barbie doll-like role in Nowhere Fast and her dark intensity in The Cry is a testament to her versatility. Thomas Gundry Greenfield embodies the precarious point where frustration tips over into violence, while his victim, D’Arcy Andrews, tries to mediate, and responsively aligns his pain with that of the others. Jessica Jefferies’ manic character provides the only light relief with some sudden bouts of laughter and scratching during early group sequences, while still dancing in perfect time with the others.

With these four portraying recovering addicts, Luke Hanna’s character is less defined. He appears to organise the others and the set at some points, but also to manipulate, empathise and suffer. A gruelling 10-minute solo at the very end of The Cry reveals him as the personification of addiction itself, and the spirit of survival.

The set is inspired minimalism by Hill and production manager Van Locker. The white floor, two facing rows of skeletal chairs and cold lighting immediately establish this as a clinical space. Looming behind is an enormous, apparently floating, galvanised iron wall, its unforgiving scale an apt metaphor for the impersonal universe. The shiny, vertical corrugations reflect light from the vertically hung fluorescent tubes above, creating a slightly disconcerting fluid stripe effect on the eye. The first time a dancer smashes into the wall, the resounding percussive effect fills the large space and the audience jumps as one.

As The Cry opens it is quickly established that the characters have a pre-existing complex of relationships. The dancers use their actual names, adding authenticity to the limited dialogue. Repetitive movements of extraordinary strength and grace are interspersed with seemingly uncontrollable scratching, chest slapping and vein tapping. “Hit me, c’mon hit me,” says Jess, but we are unsure if she’s trying to provoke a reaction, or demanding methadone. Luke forcibly sits her down, keeps rearranging chairs and people.

To poignant violins, Nicola and D’Arcy perform a contorted floor piece, like limping spiders, until Tom intervenes and fights D’Arcy, smashing him into the wall, lifting him off the floor by the throat, then dropping him. The music is gone, D’Arcy is gasping for breath, everyone is shouting, chairs are thrown.

As order is restored, D’Arcy’s strangulated breathing becomes his music, pulsing through him, each considered movement connected to the pace of the breath. Another crescendo builds as Nicola dances to faintly oriental strains, a martial artist fighting with herself. Tom screams at her, “what have you got to prove, Nic? How good are you?”, throwing her to the floor repeatedly until she collapses. D’Arcy lifts her limp body onto his and Jess’s laps and, cradling her like a dead Christ, they tenderly undress and re-dress her in black.

In the most moving and complicit sequence of The Cry, tall Tom then carries Nicola on his front and then his back, threads his head through her clothing, and moves with her as though they are one, in a slow dance of grief. Nicola is completely pliant, as if dead. Tom lays her out on the floor, covers her face and performs a solo rife with tension and crucifixion-like gestures as the lights begin to fail and flicker. Anger builds again and he smashes chairs against the wall. They pile up around him like a funeral pyre as he flails, his face contorted in pain. Jess and D’Arcy crawl across the floor to the still prone Nicola and Luke wraps their faces in black cloth. Tom, a latter-day Atlas carrying the weight of the world, pushes the mass of tangled chairs into a corner.

Luke leads Tom as if leading an animal, mops his sweat and wraps Tom’s head in his own shirt, raises and lowers him in a slow tandem dance to drums like an amplified heartbeat, eventually laying him beside the others, casualties of a disaster. The shirtless Luke dances alone to plaintive strings, creating shapes out of his grace and strength, pleading and prayerful, moving from floor to air as if other forces are at work upon him. Face haggard, powerful, anguished and visceral, he dances and dances to exhaustion.

Less than an hour in length and unremittingly demanding, The Cry taxes its dancers to their physical and emotional limits. The audience is left almost as shattered.


Dancenorth, The Cry, concept, direction Raewyn Hill, choreography by artistic team, dancers Luke Hanna, D’Arcy Andrews, Thomas Gundry Greenfield, Jessica Jefferies, Nicola Leahey, set and light design HilLocker, Dancenorth, Townsvillle, June 2-6

RealTime issue #98 Aug-Sept 2010 pg. 24

© Bernadette Ashley; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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