Blackout is a stunning piece of physical theatre by the highly respected Australian/Portuguese collaboration of Jo Stone and Paulo Castro. Written and directed by Castro, the concept was developed by Stone, whose inspiration came from her experience witnessing the fall of the Twin Towers in New York in 2001.
The story is built around a cheap wedding on a boat which turns into a desperate fight for survival as the world of the eight characters on board is consumed by chaos and darkness. What starts as a familiar scene of awkward, cheesy speeches, stereotypical characters and wedding behaviour grows exponentially into a complex, bipolar and heavily layered journey.
The acting is excellent, especially given that the performers are primarily experienced dancers. Last night’s audience at the AC Arts Main Theatre was engaged as they shared moments of laughter, cringing, embarrassment and fear.
Blackout features equal components of dance and acting, linked by the cleverly integrated use of humanistic gestures which blur the transition between the two.
While the text highlights the pretence and façade of the characters, contemporary dance, with its more abstract feel, reveals the deeper truths and conflicts as darkness and impending doom take over. The movements are clean, detailed and performed with great skill. The slow-motion sequences are particularly effective and heighten the intensity of audience engagement.
The full use of the stage and myriad subplots make for frantic viewing; you could see this performance several times and still miss things. Props are integrated into the acting and become key parts of the dance, often as an extension of the performers’ movement.
The lighting and music help draw the story from simple fun into its darker, chaotic phases and the final, more universal, ending.
Special mention to Larissa McGowan’s expressive, mostly floor-based solo at the end. Sliding, thrashing and labouring, she was stripped and soaked as the audience was left to process the rollercoaster ride.
Blackout is an enthralling piece of art that leaves the audience stunned, speechless and looking for answers.
Blackout by Stone/Castro runs until March 9 at the Main Theatre, AC Arts, Light Square. There are two shows daily from Thursday to Sunday.
Special thanks to AC Arts dance student Georgia Timperon for assistance in the writing of this review.
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