Sometimes when I’m responding to a work – or if I’m reviewing, I trawl through responses by others to see how they articulated their experience. I always learn something from writers and from writing. In this instance at the Saturday show I was sitting next to my blog-sister Jane Howard who wrote a review for the Guardian (AUS) which you can read HERE. I must say I think Jane’s background in dance keeps her critical pencil well sharpened.

Interestingly – the review I raised both my eyebrows at was by Martin Portus for Stage Whispers. Which you can read HERE. Interesting he should engage with this show from a gendered point of view. Going back to my review, long after the fact, I realised the stark difference my review doesn’t mention or indicate the gender of performers at all.

I didn’t purposely not mention they are female performers.

I wonder in the world of acrobatics, dance, circus if being a woman performer IS to be noted. I wonder if it was poor form of me not to mention they are women? I do wonder if it mattered. To the story. Or to the physicality of the piece – or to the dramaturgy of the show. I suspect it doesn’t. After all I don’t say “Look at the excellent job that female actor playing the part of a parent” in my reviews and responses… I don’t note the tone or pitch of someone’s voice with gendered consideration. Should I?

Interesting what we notice, what we privilege, what we consider worth noticing and recording, isn’t it?

Written for

A glowing vending machine holds the Snow White promise of sugary, oily treats. Towers of industrial racking hold cubes of brown cardboard boxes. Lines in different colours arc across the floor. The bare ribcage of Carriageworks is exposed through the sliding door – a loading dock with the usual glare of a fluorescent light. Someone in hardhat and high-vis vest appears. Strides across the space with more intent and focus than could be expected. An esky. A sandwich. A forklift.

Before long the hard-hatted person climbs into the drivers seat disappears into the loading dock, returning with a slumped beige body in the metal arms of the forklift. A strange fleshy addition to what is otherwise a fairly sparse and spare warehouse setting.

The forklift circles the space lifts the body high up into the top shelf of the racking and then disappears. Another body appears and is similarly deposited onto the top shelf. Exquisite curves and vacant stares – barely human, barely moving. The forklift is all.

Floating somewhere between dance theatre and acrobatics – there is something genre-bending about Forklift. Kate Denborough has assembled a series of vignettes centralised around a piece of equipment which flexes and fluxes – which both enthrals and bores. For some expecting a dance piece – the situation and music – an underscoring of droning electronic hiccups – will seem too much like a physical demonstration of strength and Olympic agility. For those expecting circus the fluidity and poetic of three bodies, in solo, duet and triumvirate will appear to flex and quiver in a contemporary dance realm.

What is beautiful in the work is the visual platform of the forklift entangled with angular flesh. However once the shift occurs from the captor to the initiated – the three performers (Henna Kaikula, Amy Macpherson and Nicci Wilks) enter into a supported showcase of circus trickery and impossibly elegant feats of gravitational defiance. And it’s at this point that any narrative or consciousness of the setting, equipment is lost. Is this the point?

Are we to see the ordinary now abandoned for the sublime or the imagination? The body that dominates the hard and mechanised? Or is it that the body is now that shows itself to be as hard and technical as the equipment?

We see the lifts and twists of the machine become more impressive. We see the lifts and twists of the body become more impressive. Perhaps we are seeing the body de-humanised, transformed into instrument and tool? Perhaps we are seeing the anthropomorphisation of the forklift?

Unfortunately though an intriguing premise filled with many novel and breath-holding beguilement, the central narrative dissolves into an industrialised circus trick, which loses any narrative weight or conceptual intrigue.

Venue: Arts Centre Melbourne – Theatres Forecourt
Dates: Wednesday 12 February – Sunday 16 February, 6.30 & 9pm