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July 24, 2017 | by  | in Theatre |
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(de)construct, directed by Cerea Maree Brown, is an emotional whirlwind. Performed at La Mama Theatre in Melbourne from June 28 to July 2, this dance-theatre piece unfolds on a small and strangely lit stage. Nabs Adhan, Lucy Pitt, Antonia Yip Siew Pin, and Jai Leeworthy embark together on a deeply personal conversation about identity, social anxiety, language, gender, sexuality, and living away from home. The four cast members perform as themselves, sharing fragments of their thoughts, feelings, and experiences, in dialogue with each other. Flecked with ums, ahs, and bouts of silence, the conversation seems unrehearsed, yet, contradictorily, every word spoken is projected onto two huge, white sheets suspended on each side of the stage. It becomes apparent that the dance-theatre work is a re-performance of a previously recorded and transcribed conversation, deconstructing the boundaries of time and blurring the lines between past and present (or at least I think that’s what it’s about).

Through the blending of words and dance, (de)construct captures the emotionality of coping with mental illness and living our day-to-day lives. Although each member of the cast comes from a different background with different stories with different struggles, they each have in common a strong sense of alienation, anxiety, and longing to connect — to belong. Intriguingly, in voicing their personal sites of struggle, the cast allow the audience to peek into their lives, creating a sense of intimacy that is further heightened by the small, classroom-sized theatre. The audience sits within reach of the cast and so close to each other, it’s easy to be distracted by the shifting facial expressions of those sitting across the other side of the stage. Throughout the show, there’s a twinge of guilt, a sense of taking without giving, knowing that we, the audience, can remain safe and anonymous as the cast bare a little bit of their souls to a crowd of strangers.

Writhing, flinching, falling, bodies embody the frustration and despair of feeling isolated, and of wanting yet being unable to reach out to others. Not too abstract or contrived, the bodies are beautifully expressive, capturing and distilling the essence of a human feeling into flesh and movement. At the same time, the carefully choreographed dance, like the transcription and re-performance, highlights the gap between inner thought and feeling and external communication. It reveals the impossibility of expressing and presenting ourselves to others in a way that exactly reflects what we truly think and who we truly are. The act of self-expression always require a process of translation. No matter how hard we try, it’s impossible to have others know us in the same way that we know ourselves.

Burdened with this heavy thought, we left immediately after the play to go and get dinner, speaking to no one but each other.

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