After a hugely hot day, supposedly the hottest day in Sydney in four years, it was a welcome relief to walk through the streets of Parramatta as a fine mist of rain started to fall. James Waites and I had caught a train after a brief sprint (I was later than anticipated due to unanticipated trackwork)- and within half an hour had found ourself in “The geographical centre of Sydney.” Shaun Parker’s latest creation started its Sydney Festival leg of a wider tour at 2.30pm, 23rd Jan at Parramatta Riverside Theatre- we caught the later session and it was really fascinating.

A man with his back to us, draws rows and rows of little people shapes with chalk onto an 10 foot black wall. After the lights dim- an arrow which points to a chalk person- he writes YOU. He draws a very large person in chalk with an arrow labels it ME. It begins. A web of coloured balloons floats above the black chalkboard and is hit by shards of angled light- the instant effect is awe and delight.
In bursts of energy and colour- nine performers take the stage demand our attention as the music soars and pulses beneath their bodies. Seeing is truly believing as dance history, genre and acrobatics interweave and entwine together.

I am not a fan of reading programmes, reviews or even media releases before seeing a show- reading for me should be post show and especially during mid-post-show-reflection… Even though I am not a dance critic, nor practitioner- nor have any practical or theoretical experience in talking about dance or movement (and scant practice at seeing it)- I thought writing about Happy as Larry would be an interesting excercise in articulating my experience.

My feelings about the piece as a whole is one of complete awe- watching dancers move for 90 minutes in unusual and unexpected ways- with a sense of humour and entertainment about their performance was delightful. The cheekiness of the performers- even the surprising and unexpectedness of the less identifiable dance components (ie the rollerskating/acrobatics/movement) was thrilling. and the story I found in the performance was that about frustration and connectedness/loneliness- so for me the Enneagram personality types and their pursuit of happiness was not so evident. Infact I did not really notice distinct personality traits in the piece at all. Not that this really matters- I tend to think that a departure point for inspiration or creation of work is not necessarilly important to the end product if the production is interesting and coherent in its own right.

I was impressed by all performers ability to connect to the audience and to work together in an ensemble- there were vast segements of synchronicity and solo work which were interspersed with the pivoting blackboard. The design by Adam Gardnir and Lighting Design by Luiz Pamphola worked together beautifully to highlight the performances and to compliment the stunning original score created by Nick Wales and Bree van Ryk.

This is a stunning and awe-inspiring production full of vibrancy, muscularity and stunning feats of physical precision. Although not strong necessarilly on narrative- Happy as Larry is utterly unpretentious, fun, energetic and surges with intensity. This will be the hot dance ticket of any festival and I urge you to see it if you can!