Cremorne Theatre, QPAC
October 12, 2018

Natalie Weir’s final work as Artistic Director of Expressions Dance Company, Everyday Requiem, is an incredibly poignant and resonant piece that explores all the joy, grief, conflict, and nostalgia of one ordinary man’s life.

The Old Man, performed with great tenderness and gravitas by guest artist Brian Lucas, reflects on the important events and relationships of his life as he celebrates his seventieth birthday. The EDC ensemble dancers perform scenes from his life, including the glow and heartbreak of a first love, difficult family relationships, the loss of a loved one, a wedding day, and the birth of a child. Lucas occasionally interacts with his past selves, and sometimes the audience are also shown things outside the scope of his memory, such as his wife’s grief when he leaves for war and the developing bond between his wife and infant daughter while he is deployed.

Brian Lucas. Photo © David Kelly 

Everyday Requiem is a collaboration with The Australian Voices, who perform Gordon Hamilton’s original score a capella while also engaging with the dancers onstage. There is something uniquely raw about hearing the voices live and without instrumental accompaniment. Hamilton’s clever score combines elements of the traditional Latin requiem text with unusual vocal techniques including gargling while singing and the percussion of toothbrushes on teeth, and frequently uses list recitation – a booklist for the first day of school, a series of pet names for the Young Love duet, and years and months to signify the passing of time.

Natalie Weir’s choreography in this piece is, characteristically, highly physical and deeply emotional as well as distinct through each phase of The Old Man’s life and relationships. Weir creates intimate and furious duets, trios filled with tensions and conflict, and emotional solos that highlight the individual strengths and artistry of each dancer. Several movement motifs are maintained as the audience is transported through the different stages of The Old Man’s life, such as kissing The Mother on the head, and the brushing of hair as an act of love and caretaking. The items that appear onstage are symbols whose meaning transforms as the years pass. The key theme of layered selves and layers of memory is played out through the layering of bodies and voices in the piece and costuming also factors into the choreography, often as a prop that is danced with in the earlier years of the man’s life.

Samuel Boyd, Richard Causer (above) and Scott Ewen (below). Photo © David Kelly

Lighting design by David Walters widened and narrowed the audience’s focus to a certain dancer or object, and with design by Bill Haycock, the few props were used to their fullest extent. In the duet between Scott Ewen and Richard Causer which is a fight between the brothers, tables are used to create sound as well as for leverage, something to dance on and around, and formed a barrier between the two dancers as well as between the dancers and the audience.

Jag Popham dances as the man’s infant and childhood self, rolling and tumbling fluidly through the choreography with childlike silliness and playfulness. The tenderness between Popham and The Mother – The Australian Voices’ Sophie Bannister – is intercut with his intensely competitive, combative relationship with The Brother (Scott Ewen), characterised by shoving and numerous acrobatic lifts in quick succession.

Sophie Bannister, Scott Ewen, Rebecca Hocking, Isabella Gerometta, Jag Popham, David Upcher, Samuel Boyd, Jamie Moffatt and Brian Lucas. Photo © David Kelly

Jake McLarnon is The Adolescent and Young Man, dancing with his Young Love (Isabella Hood) and later with The Wife (Lizzie Vilmanis). These two pairings were choreographically distinct, the married couple bouncing off one another with playfulness while the young lovers lean into and over other. In both duets, the dancers perform the floorwork-heavy choreography and complex lifts with incredible balance and control.

Richard Causer is stoic and pensive as The Mature Man and Alana Sargent delivers a particularly powerful performance as The Daughter grieving; her solo with The Mother’s robe as a prop, in particular, was deeply affecting. Guest artist Lizzie Vilmanis displayed emotional intensity and beautiful balletic technique as The Wife, initially a role developed for and with ensemble member Elise May, who sustained an injury and was unable to perform. Every dancer onstage displayed a great range and depth of emotions, consistent despite a mid-performance fire alarm and evacuation on opening night. All performers returned seamlessly to the emotional wavelength of the piece following the interruption.

Brian Lucas, Alana Sargent, Richard Causer, Jake McLarnon and Jag Popham. Photo © David Kelly

The ensemble dancers were joined onstage for the final scene by guest dancers from WaW, a local dance program specifically tailored to mature women aged 50 and over, holding photographs of their younger selves.

Everyday Requiem is a powerful, emotionally charged work that finds beauty in the simplicity of an ordinary lifetime, and will make you reflect on the moments, big and small, that have had the greatest impact on your own life.


Everyday Requiem is at QPAC until October 20

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Limelight, Australia's Classical Music and Arts Magazine