Shadowland sails us across a dreamscape that is familiar, challenging and beautiful
Fans of the illustrated novel and cartoon love the imaginative freedom of the line to draw anything the mind can imagine.
Imagine, then, that a group of dancers decide to use their bodies as ink and the freedom of perspective provided by light and shadow to free that ink from the constraints of size and gravity. These eight dancers, then, have the power to fly, to grow and shrink – to become taxis, animals, aeroplanes, castles and opera houses.
Imagine that this imagining travelled the world and came to Brisbane and you will be somewhat prepared for Shadowland now playing at QPAC for ten (now nine) short days.
Many of us have seen shadow play at camps or country halls, sausages being hauled out of the innards of an authority figure held up to ridicule. With international travel almost more common than local entertainment the shadow puppets of Bali and northern India may be more familiar.
Shadowlands takes these traditions of storytelling and weaves them into a contemporary dance piece that is savvy, sassy and clever but, above all, beautiful – achingly beautiful.
The play opens with three actors flying through the air, lightly leaping from knee to shoulder to extended hand of the supporting members of the company, as they are dressed, in front of us, in mid-air, as they move. We step through a range of theatrical devices familiarising us with the power of shadow to bend perspective and, more importantly, establishing the relationship between the monochrome, dream world of silhouettes behind the screen and the real, coloured and fleshy world on our side.
We are prepared, now, to believe that the hand of fate can shape a beautiful woman into a travelling dog, two men into a satyr or three dancers into a jellyfish that can consume the beautiful woman/dog floating in the ocean and we can watch her being digested inside the jelly fish.
We are so completely transported that we can move seamlessly from the simple pathos of a stray dog enjoying a car ride, head out the window and all, to one of the most moving sensual love scenes ever portrayed on stage.
Shadowlands is magnificent on many levels. It is a celebration of being human, of the human body and our creative spirit. It combines physical theatre, ballet, comedy and shadow puppetry in a soaring performance that lifts you so far from the everyday that you cannot help being improved as a person. A transcendental experience. Truly exquisite.