Artistic Directors: Mary Davies, Lynette King, Caroline Mummery
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
A community production, featuring 180 performers aged 8-80 from community groups and schools is enough to send many practitioners into a blind panic. For over 30 years DanceEast, however, has been running just such projects and their 2017 showing of The Inkwell is an ideal showcase of what can be achieved.
Despite the huge company, The Inkwell is surprisingly intimate, a series of vignettes giving individual groups the opportunity to showcase their work while adding to the overall picture.
The artistic influence of the source inspiration, Australian illustrator Shaun Tan’s Tales from Outer Suburbia, is evident from the outset, with mesmerising projected animation (Liz Waugh McManus and Aaron Lockwood from Tan’s originals). Together with an evocative music score it creates a surreal, yet absorbing world. It’s a world of growth and change, a world of ever changing seasons, a world of nature pitted against creeping industrialisation and a world of not quite belonging.
That ever-changing landscape is reflected in the performers, the youngest dancers giving way to their mature counterparts, yet it’s all handled with a fluidity and subtlety that gives the piece a cinematic feel.
There may be elements where we wonder what the narrative is, but the overall visual sweep carries the viewer through any moments of confusion, even managing to incorporate a beach bathing routine that Esther Williams would have been proud of.
While the audience understandably is heavily populated by proud parents, siblings and grandparents, hopefully productions such as The Inkwell will encourage a wider participation in dance initiatives. It’s sad to see the Billy Elliot effect may now be waning, with a predominately female cast here. Potentially, projects such as this can show the possibility of dance to reach all genders and all ages.
Reviewed on 11 March 2017 | Image: Contributed