We like being first, and the world premiere of A Delicate Situation was no exception as it opened to a packed Space Theatre for an all-too-brief season. Five years in the making, the contemporary Australian and Malaysian dance theatre piece is definitely worth the wait.
The collaboration, brought about by choreographer and director Lina Limosani, is an extraordinary work. Seeking to demonstrate the omnipresence of death and examine death lore across cultures, Limosani presents her take on the ancient Malaysian mythological ghost, the Pontianak, whilst telling the story of one woman’s struggle to come to terms with death.
Malaysian Suhaili Micheline Ahmad Kamil is magnificent; discomfort, anxiety and power are brilliantly conveyed with the help of the outstanding costume and set design of Canadian Eve Lambert. Australian Carol Wellman Kelly’s character has an altogether different type of anxiety, which was so well delivered I found my own breathing under strain. As she exposes herself, is torn apart by grief, and tries to hold on to normalcy, Kamil’s character is beautifully and strikingly juxtaposed, both physically and conceptually.
The chemistry between the pair is as captivating as the production is suspenseful. Their abilities to create big drama with small movements, underpinned with the development of their characters, are utterly absorbing.
Limosani’s choreography is intelligent and innovative in this tale that is almost wholly without spoken dialogue. Behind the scenes, Lisa Lonero and Alexandra Knox were exemplary in their flawless light curtain puppetry roles, aided by production manager and lighting designer, Neil Jensen.
Malaysian sound designer Hardesh Singh’s excellent soundscape is at times, appropriately distressing. From opening growls, old distant vinyl, blizzards, and closing chirps, the music is so compatible with the action as to provide that very unique audience experience of a seamless performance. Kelly’s slide into instability as she mimes to Singh’s sound effects is a show highlight.
Clever, multi-functional properties and impressive visual effects prompted some quizzical how-did-they-do-that reactions traditionally heard at quality magic shows.
A Delicate Situation is well conceived and superbly executed whilst being very cleverly wrapped up (literally!) in folklore, superstition, and something you don’t want to meet in real life; but from the comfort of your audience seat, it’s fantastic!
Suitable for ages 14+, this is an extremely powerful piece; frightening, dramatic, fragile, grim, and absolutely fascinating.
Hurry to see the last shows.
Reviewed by Gordon Forester
Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Street, Adelaide
Season: 22 – 24th May 2014
Duration: 55 minutes
Tickets: $20 – $38
Bookings: Adelaide Festival Centre bookings