Maximum is described as a duet between a female contemporary dancer and male professional bodybuilder, in which the unlikely duo perform a series of movement tasks and intense acts of physical endurance. While the performance included the potentially interesting dancer-bodybuilder duo, and the movement tasks or acts of physical endurance, the production’s value as a piece of theatre is questionable.
The performance’s lighting and sound design introduced the uncomfortable experience that the audience were set to endure for the 50 minute performance. Lights which lined the front and back of the stage’s floor created a stark white effect. The front lights pointed at the performers created both a raw display of the anguish on the performers’ faces and a glistening effect to the sweat that eventually dripped from their bodies. The back row of lights, however, pointed directly into the eyes of the audience detracted from the initial potential of the front lighting effect.
Matthew Adey’s migraine inducing lighting design was then paired with Daniel Arnott’s soundscape that began as an intricate and clever enhancement to sounds of the performers’ costumes. Sounds of the friction between the performers’ silver metallic shorts rubbing together and their squeaking sneakers against the floor seemed to make their way into the soundscape creating an interesting filler to the otherwise virtually empty and stark space. The intricate detail of this sound design, however, was eventually drowned out by a building drone to create tension and suspense. With each new physical task this suspense became distracting and unsettling, leaving me squirming in my seat and squinting my eyes to focus. The one moment where the soundscape was dropped was replaced with an ear piercing screech from whistles around the performers necks. Overall, the lighting and sound design made me feel as if the audience weren’t wanted in the space.
The performance itself seemed to work with themes of circles and patterns. Natalie Abbott led each of the movement sequences while Nathan Daveson seemed to follow behind by a fraction of a second. The pair had undeniable focus, rhythm and synchronization. The sequences of physical exercises, however, did not maintain this strength and effective impact. The theme of circular patterns was evident in the repetition of each sequence. This theme emerged during the pair’s walking, jogging and sprinting through the empty space, as well as within a physical challenge during the performance’s “climactic” challenge where Nathan Daveson, the bodybuilder, lifted Natalie Abbott, the dancer, in a pose that allowed her to reach towards the ceiling.
The purpose of this particular exercise initially suggested an attempt to hold the pose while Daveson swiveled his feet to complete a finished circle. Once Abbott fell and the pair repeated their attempt to hold the pose as long as possible it became evident that this was not the case; the exercise was simply an ongoing test of endurance. As this sequence dragged on for so long it became torturous to watch, the initial suspense of this exercise eventuated in an act of anticipating Abbott falling or Daveson slipping in his own trail of sweat.
The circles and repetition continued with a sequence that entailed both performers on their hands and knees, curling their spines and pushing up and down with their arms while making sounds that originally sounded dog-like and eventually became almost sexual grunts. Abbott seemed to further the sexualisation of this sequence with an invasive display of the performers’ bodies. Once again this sequence, indeed, required physical endurance, however the execution of this exercise was uncomfortable and repetitive.
While the physical endurance required for long and repetitive tasks may be considered initially captivating, their dragged out duration being performed with accompanying detracting lighting and a distracting soundscape. These acts performed in a sequence did not seem to suit a theatre or dance title, but rather that of a spectacle. Further, the platform for this production may be better suited for a public event for passers by to be captivated by, or perhaps even at a fitness centre. The show is not quite theatre, not quite dance, and not quite acrobatics. The 50 minute spectacle seems intriguing in theory, however having encountered it the show seems it would benefit from an audience who aren’t hoping to attend a theatre production.
– Written by Rhumer Diball December 3rd 2015
MAXIMUM PRESENTED BY LA BOITE INDIE
LA BOÎTE: WED 25 NOV– SAT DEC 5, 2015.