Seymour Centre, Sydney Festival 2011
I didn’t see roadkill or lawn, the previous works by Gavin Webber and Grayson Millwood shown in Australia in recent years. So I have no way of knowing how Food Chain, presented at the Sydney Festival 2011, fits in with their developing (or developed?) aesthetic. I have to say that if those previous works were like Food Chain I find it difficult to understand their apparent success.
Food Chain was episodic—not surprising given the experience of Webber and Millwood, which includes working with Meryl Tankard Australian Dance Theatre and in various situations in Germany. Billed as ‘a David Attenborough documentary in reverse’, it purported to examine the idea of animals experimenting on humans and on how much ‘animal’ was apparent in human beings. Men in bear suits changing into business suits. A woman wearing a bear head backwards or on the end of her leg. A conversation with a line-up of stuffed animals. A game of shadow play of a fairly simplistic nature that morphed into shadowy allusions to bestiality. Crude references to sexual smell. For me Food Chain just lacked any kind of sophistication of thought. Even those polar bear advertisements for Bundaberg rum we used to see on commercial television with some frequency had more to offer in my opinion.
For me Food Chain also lacked any kind of sophisticated movement. With no-one identified as choreographer perhaps this is not surprising. Take the closing scene when the cast spent some time slowly descending a large tree trunk that made up the major part of the set. Each performer would make it, eventually, to the floor and disappear only to return at the top of the trunk and make another descent. It seemed to last an age. The work was also punctuated with the spoken word. Some lines were just inaudible. Not all dancers have the ability or training to speak on stage. Very frustrating.
In the end it was difficult to understand exactly what Webber and Millwood were trying to say other than something on the most superficial of levels. I thought Food Chain was way down the chain of where dance is in the twenty-first century. At least the tickets were only $30.
Michelle Potter, 2 February 2011