Review written for Trespass Magazine – April 8th, 2009
For all the modernity which the Sydney Theatre’s foyer architecture seems to promise, the theatre inside is actually devoid of any sort of visual interest. It is black with black fringes, and a distinct cloud of fog hangs in the sightlines from the dress circle. An empty stage can be threatening, even overwhelming, for any kind of performance and there is a desire to fill the space with props but Bonachela resists the temptation (or, perhaps, the weakness) and uses the space to alienate and draw focus. He is not frightened of a void, and Daniel Askill’s star scapes projected on the back wall do nothing if not enhance the feeling of great emptiness and in that emptiness, potential for something amazing. The show is at its best when the whole stage is used, with space in between two or four dancers. The ‘tighter’ staging lacks the storytelling quality which some of the solo and duet sections included so brilliantly.
Jordan Askill’s costume design played into Bonachela’s evolutionary concept by unifying the dancers into a human collective, with no leaders or differences. However, the performances of a few dancers in particular escaped anonymity in a way which was truly breathtaking. First, Juliette Barton showcased extensive manipulations of the tall female form, with Bonachela using her height to his advantage. Her body moved as smoothly as a ballerina one moment, and contorted itself the next. Secondly, Kynan Hughes showed amazing control of his body, moving from electric convulsion to sensuality in a steady but confronting physical evolution and finally, Amy Hollingsworth must be mentioned purely for the facial expressions which, although easily lost in a group performance, illustrated a performer in touch with her character on an emotional level. These three dancers all stood out for the same reason, they were truly convincing. We believed Juliette as the lofty animal taking shape, Kynan as the man moving from beast to Romeo, and Amy as the tortured and enraptured lover.
Without giving away too much, we unfold manages to play off the double meaning of its title by showing us the unfolding of human kind, shaking and struggling free to walk on its hind legs, and the desecration that human beings can cause one another. At the outset, I felt that perhaps Bonachela’s choreography was intended as the antidote to a young Australian culture, trying to mark its territory, but the piece is as much about dissonance as it is about unity. The characters move across the stage with a sense of liquidity, dragged limb for limb as if there were no option but to be together. But for every three times a man is caught by his brother, there is a time he is left to fall.
Rafael Bonachela’s we unfold is an incredible showcase of physical ingenuity and encapsulating aesthetics; the hour-long performance luring us through the creation and dismantling of a universe; crying and laughing in human dissonance and unity.