Armed with a talented group of emerging and independent creatives, Alix and Fern used their residency at Carclew to create two brand new dance works in only three weeks.
Both performances explore what it means to be human, but at their core they celebrate local and emerging talent. Featuring sixteen South Australian creatives and performers overall, their works showcase the next generation of the Adelaide Contemporary Dance sector.
Many events at Carclew House are influenced by the mansion’s historical charm, and At A Mansion In The Dark takes that perception from the audience, and uses it to elevate the performances.
The Quadrille, directed and choreographed by Fern, uses the older aesthetics to take the audience back in time to the Regency Era. While Cowl, directed and choreographed by Alix, brings forward the eeriness of historic houses at night and leads the audience into an asylum.
Innovatively, both dance acts fully utilise the space given, performing not only in the ballroom but also the entry way, staircase and even outside.
Though, be sure to bring your warm coats with you, and maybe an umbrella, as the consequence of using the entirety of Carclew House as their stage, audiences are asked to wait outside during the 15-minute intermission.
The first performance you’re treated to is The Quadrille, which lovers of Bridgerton, Jane Austen, and period dramas are sure to enjoy. The work brilliantly combines regency era ballroom dancing, contemporary dance and the romanticised dramatic characters well known to those genres.
Framed around Harriet Comerford’s diary entries, the immersive performance follows the drama, romance, and intrigue of who Lord Blackmore will choose for his wife at the final ball of the season.
These entries are spoken aloud in snippets as the dancers lead you into the world of 1821, with fun characterisation and beautifully choreographed performances, the storyline is easy to follow. Alix Kuijpers sound design is present in this work as well, heightening the characters emotions amongst the cosy candle lit ballroom.
The Quadrille also effectively uses its costumes to further convey the storyline. With the dancers swapping out their regency attire for their base layers throughout the performance to showcase who the audience should focus on and help convey what the characters are feeling.
Written by fellow Carclew Resident, Audrey Menz, some of the diary entries can be read in full on the back of the program booklet.
The Quadrille features the performers Sarah Wilson, Caroline De Wan, Stella Page, Rhianna Dunaiski, Amelia Walmsley and Sabrina Schipani.
The second performance, Cowl, is heavily inspired by the world of Batman, specifically the graphic novel ‘Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth’.
Interestingly, Cowl begins while audiences are still outside during intermission, with some of the dancers crying and running around as if tyring to escape an asylum. Eventually, the audience is asked to follow the dancers back inside the darkened mansion.
Each of the performers are presented as an abstraction of the caped crusader and his famous rogue’s gallery, who bring you into their minds as they grapple with their emotions and our concept of humanity in an exploration of the collective consciousness.
The beautiful and haunting soundscape by Alix Kuijpers, Tom Byrne and Oliver Byrne draws the audience into the performance further. With dialogue from the asylums workers and the inmates themselves scattered throughout the show, alongside the thematically perfect music.
The choreography is intense and emotion driven, with each dancer having a short solo befitting their characters mental state, as they’re trapped together in the asylum. Their performances are driven by psychological extremes, like pain, lust, loss, rage and oblivion, which is show further with the accompanying by the ambient lighting and music.
Throughout the performance, a live mural of visual art being created on the back wall by Tayer Stead, featuring the motifs of Batman and his Rogues.
Interestingly, Oliver Byrne, wrote a treatis on Schopenhauer’s philosophies on pain and desire pertaining to Batman characters, which is featured on the back of the program, and adds another level of understanding to the performance.
Cowl features the performers Kate Burgess, Sophie Hollingworth, Beth Mooney, Tayer Stead and Chelsea Turner.
Overall, At A Mansion In The Dark is an intriguing and entertaining performance by talented local creatives. So, if you love seeing new contemporary dance works, and enjoy Bridgerton or Batman, this is a must-see show.
At A Mansion In The Dark, Carclew House, North Adelaide, until May 28, 2023.