Theatre review: Look Right Through Me

by todadwithlove

Dear Dad

Look right through me is a lot hazier and far more obstructed than its title suggests. Its audience steps inside a Merlyn Theatre shrouded in smoke and finds themselves separated from the cast by a tall construction fence.

A creative presentation by Kate Denborough of KAGE and produced in collaboration with Michael Leunig, this piece of dance theatre is an enigmatic and strenuous commentary on life.

With a relentless series of symbols and metaphors, expressed through cascading paragraphs of physical literature, it depicts life’s encounters with fear and fatigue, solace and betrayal, power and manipulation, longing and wonder. Ultimately, however, it speaks about humans’ adaptability and ingenuity and reminds us of life’s simple pleasures — in innocence and in company.

Look right though me tells of a man who wakes to find himself in a scene of ruin and desolation. He is pinned to the fence with fright when a pack of blood-thirsty hounds leaps out towards him. They are held back fortunately by tethers and swiftly put down by the man’s own dopelganger (played with remarkable poise and equanimity by Denborough’s seven-year-old son, Oscar Wilson).

As he seeks to find his way home, the man chances upon three men and one woman. While the men taunt and elude him, the latter turns to provide him with comfort and rejuvenation.

Jethro Woodward’s exquisite score, albeit recorded, is utterly unforgettable. More than mere adverbs of a literary piece — because music adds pace and atmosphere to the narrative — Woodward’s soundscape is its ever-present narrator. The sounds of water gently sloshing in the abandoned boat, for instance, is the critical voice necessary to explain the tale.

Denborough directs a superb cast of performers. The sensuous moves of Fiona Cameron’s woman as she consorts (head-to-head) with one of the three men, edging out the protagonist in the process, are as bewitching as her about-face declarations of naked feelings to the love-lost and disillusioned man. The remarkable transformation of the three strangers from playful adversaries to vicious assailants and manipulative circus handlers add colour and texture to the production. One cannot but be blown away by the sight of sinewy brawn gyrating in scarlet leggings and stiletto heels.

The protagonist, played by Timothy Ohl, too tells his story well; his dance expressions are as vivid as they are spellbinding. The circus sequence in which he flaps at the end of a fishing line is nothing less than virtuosic, to say little about his contortionistic prowess in the final scenes.

Admittedly, the production contains a lot of motion repetitions, nearly to the point of hypnotism. While that has an almost meditative effect, it also has its drawbacks. For after a while, the seemingly endless dance sequence starts to dull the senses and blunt feelings to the nuances.

Still, this is an extraordinary and thoughtful piece of work. Leunig’s fingerprints can be traced throughout the production: his reflections on life, the tree, the apples and the moon, even his sardonic wit in signposts that read “Dreams will be towed away” and “No Understanding Anytime”.

Finally, Look right through me becomes possible only towards the end of the 65-minute presentation, when the smoke has dissipated and the fence has been lifted: life, after all is said and done, is really about the simplest of pleasures — and yes, that includes innocence and the company of (furry) friends.

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