“I don’t know what to anticipate, and that’s thrilling” an viewers member stated as we had been queuing up for the opening night time of Bare & Harmful, the most recent enterprise from Luck and Schooney, a veteran creative duo specialising in Dance Theatre and Cabaret. The present’s description is temporary and enticingly basic, promising a cabaret present that may discover sexual taboos and physique positivity.
As a part of Delight and Summer time at Q, the venue was bustling. Because the viewers waited for the present to begin, individuals had been dancing of their seats, drinks in hand, to bassy pop numbers (similar to Whethan and Dua Lipa’s ‘Excessive’) as a hum of pleasure and expectation coursed via the room. This anticipation was solely heightened by a stony-faced James Luck, one half of Luck and Schooney, seated alone on stage, bathed in purple gentle. The pre-show combine moved from gradual and grungy to punchy pop tracks, calling to thoughts the dimly lit corners of a dance ground. I jotted down a notice that I wager Kim Petras and Sam Smith’s synthy and sultry hit ‘Unholy’ would characteristic in some unspecified time in the future.
I used to be confirmed proper within the first three seconds. As the primary resounding notes of the choir struck up, the forged hit the stage. White-shirted ladies á la Dangerous Enterprise (Ellyce Bisson, Zoe Kelly, Amanda Macfarlane, Colette Winks) filtered previous and across the chair that held Luck, dealing with a black-clad Rebekkah Schoonbeek-Berridge (Schooney) placing a formidable ‘Madam’ determine. The dancers instantly started to ‘carry out’ for Luck’s ‘Boss’, organising a basic, heteronormative membership scene fantasy. The scene progressively unfolded, evolving as two male dancers (Josh Morris, Kenzo Vuibert) entered, however equally submitted themselves to Luck’s slothful eye.
Forwardness of sexual pondering just isn’t part of Kiwi tradition, and the viewers was initially silent, unsure of learn how to react – a number of chuckles as Luck mimed snorting cocaine off one of many male dancer’s our bodies. Most easily watched, a curious sense of engagement and unease palpable within the theatre as a extremely gendered sexual energy dynamic performed out on stage. Flipping the facility stability shortly, the dancers pulled Luck from his throne and started to strip him naked. Fulfilling the promise of the present’s title, the forged then took a unadorned Luck and used hearth efficiency to set the highest of his head on hearth.
After the fireplace, the viewers started to heat, the uncertainty and occasional whoop remodeling into massive cheers by the top of the second quantity (The Pussycat Dolls’ ‘Buttons’). A jumpsuit-cladded Schoonbeek-Berridge led a playful BDSM-forward dance quantity, casting a realizing wink on the viewers earlier than imitating placing the blindfolded males together with her driving crop. The viewers laughed and cheered as an viewers member was chosen to obtain the identical playful therapy, whispered directions leading to amusing yoga-like cat-cow reactions to the driving crop.
The present is surprisingly humourous. Cheeky is the easiest way to explain it, each actually and figuratively. Luck, Morris and Vuibert have the viewers in stitches as they play with drag in overly-large but ineffective ballgowns to Tom Jones’ ‘Delilah’. Simulated intercourse acts construct till they’re comically overblown, with one memorable set-piece revisited with a twist the viewers went loopy for. After the preliminary discomfort fades, the viewers cheer loudly, snicker and clap all through the complete present.
Regardless of the viewers’s response, whether or not it’s silence, shock or laughter, the acts on stage proceed confidently of their audacity, magnificence and style. Bare and Harmful, as a present that explores intercourse and want and energy, has an fascinating commentary on voyeurism. Staging a cabaret present in an end-stage Rangatira at Q Theatre does one thing thought-provoking in lifting the shape from the membership/restaurant/on line casino context and putting it on a most important stage. At first there’s a slight disconnect, as the kind of efficiency the viewers witnesses feels virtually misplaced from the darkish surrounds of a nightclub, the place the performers can filter in and across the viewers. But the staging calls for you take note of the performers, and doesn’t permit for the standard distractions of a cabaret setting. They’re the attraction, not the sideshow. You’re right here for his or her act, we’re right here for them. This delicate change of energy – who’s watching whom, who’s there for whom – is subtly toyed with all through the present. An enormous contribution to that is the immensely intelligent lighting design by Zane Allen – at instances revealing and highlighting, or hiding and obscuring – directing you the place to look and exposing the viewers when they could not wish to be seen. It’s a refined cat and mouse sport, of chases and glimpses, masterfully constructing a way of ambiance, a commentary on energy and energy buildings, while nonetheless placing on a charming and uproarious present.
While risqué the present just isn’t uncomfortably express for the typical viewers member, and while you do expertise nudity and hazard, the present extra explores the artwork and the strain that you may create from these two ‘hooks’. For a present that proclaims it explores sexual taboo, it’s surprisingly restrained, the administrators of the present having an ideal command of the road they’re strolling.
The present is a delight from begin to end and it’s tough to select highlights. An ethereal veil dance to Beyonce’s ‘Candy Goals’ builds to a pant inducing conclusion. Zoe Kelly impressed in an aerial pole-dance to Billie Eilish’s ‘Happier than Ever’, while Ellyce Bisson adopted with a equally unimaginable aerial hoop routine. These lovely shows of athleticism wrought with the underlying pressure of stated aerial Circus acts had been among the most jaw-dropping moments of the present. With the assorted lip-synced dances, I began to hope for a vocal efficiency and was not disillusioned by a susceptible rendition of Adele’s ‘To Make You Really feel My Love’ by Colette Winks. The performers create little vignettes, moments of fantasy, all through the present, the place the narratives play out strongest of their partnered acts – probably the most emotionally highly effective being a lyrical dance between Luck and Vuibert, silhouetted onstage by flashlights.
Bare & Harmful is a celebration of the human physique and bodily autonomy. In a present about want, it was significant to see all our bodies – and notably bigger our bodies – celebrated by the forged AND the viewers. Extra. Please! The range of the present is introduced with out remark, creating a novel and joyfully validating expertise for all orientations.
The present encompasses what good cabaret does – love, management, pleasure and want. There’s a clear data and deep appreciation of the types of cabaret, expressed by a gifted and charismatic forged. The belief between the performers is clear onstage all through the present and illuminates how elementary a facet that’s to the BDSM components the present performs with. As trite as it’s to say – there’s one thing in it for everybody, in the event that they’re open sufficient to attend. The present is humorous, lovely and thrilling – a fantastic night time out with a killer soundtrack.
Naked & Dangerous performs Q Theatre Rangatira 22-25 February, 2023 as a part of Auckland Delight.
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