18 January 2014 (matinee), Carriageworks, Eveleigh (Sydney). Sydney Festival 2014
‘More than dance’ the advertising says. And it is indeed difficult to categorise Forklift by Melbourne-based company Kage with anything more specific than that. A work for three performers and a forklift vehicle, it highlights in many respects the tension between the fragility and delicacy of the human body and the solidity and strength of a robust piece of machinery.
But then does it? The performers, Henna Kaikul, Amy Macpherson and Nicci Wilks, are extraordinary. They had me with my heart in my mouth as two of them moved from one impossible pose to another, balancing, dangling and wrapping themselves around the forklift, changing places every so often with the third performer who drove the vehicle. The skills they exhibited (apart from being able to drive a forklift) ranged from straight circus stunts to acrobatic tricks and occasionally what might be called powerful, perhaps outrageous contemporary dance movement. Each performer often seemed as robust as the machine and it was only that we knew they were human beings that the tension gathered strength and settled inside us as audience members. That kind of emotional tension, rather than the more obvious man versus machine element, was perhaps the strength of Forklift.
I liked the tongue in cheek moments sprinkled throughout the show. Occasionally, whichever performer was driving the forklift would sit back in the cabin with one foot resting on the dashboard, pick up a magazine and nonchalantly start reading as she transported the other two performers, who were on the roof, or the forks, on wooden pallets being lifted upwards, or some other impossible place on the forklift, round the space of Bay 17 at Carriageworks. Then I liked the surreptitious stealing of potato crisps that went on shortly after the opening as two performers, who seemed like anonymous bodies at that stage, crept up behind a startled forklift driver and slowly dipped a hand into her just-bought snack. These moments added a light-hearted element to the piece.
There were one or two aspects of the show that I thought didn’t work so well. I’m not sure there was any sense of coherence pulling together the diverse elements of the piece. The slight narrative line centring on the experiences of a forklift driver as she goes about her business didn’t gel all that well with the more abstract elements of bodies versus machine, or with the straight circus tricks that popped up now and then. Having said that Nicci Wilks’ act with a huge and very heavy hula hoop was spectacular as a demonstration of technique.
Forklift was directed by Kate Denborough whose audacity when it comes to making ‘more than dance’ is becoming clearer with each work she creates. It had a commissioned score by Jethro Woodward, which to my ear sounded suitably industrial and yet at times was slightly mysterious as if we were looking into a world beyond the usual.
Michelle Potter, 19 January 2014
Featured image: Promotional shot for Forklift