Theatre review: Duets

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the_stain_duets_sizedlamama-314fa7c3The Stain, a three-women art troupe, certainly had on its mind expressions by two artistes in the creation of Duets. Conjugation, or the notion of it, is rife in Maude Davey’s eight-member cast staging, although the raunchy production turns out to be a poignant portrait of the joys and pain of human intimacy.

Held together by a palette of ballads and abstract dance, for an absent plot, the work reminds us that behind a world saturated by preoccupations with sex is ultimately a desire for connection.

After a bitter break-up, (in a stirring group performance of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know), a woman (Francesca Sculli) calls her lover (Jo Franklin), and attempts at reconciliation under apparent talk of rolling-pins and Crisco and nakedness.

A wildly distracted woman (exceptional Sarah Ward), her head in a television-box that she changes channels again and again, further fills the space with songs of longing and of loss. Despite achieving orgasm with inanimate objects she goes on to seek closeness with the audience in a gesture that suggests perhaps the inadequacy of physical gratification.

There is a powerful message inside what first appears to be a sleazy framework (replete with bananas and apples and fake penises) made more potent by Herbz’s dim and hazy set design — enveloped in murky sheets of plastic, so that one feels as if they are looking through half-closed eyes — and a soundscape in which Gen Bernstein’s guitar and Genevieve Fry’s harp strum heart-strings as achingly as they do the airwaves. The lighting is noteworthy, too, creating pulse and motion, like electricity shaking up your nerves.

It is The Huxley’s final rendition, however, that cuts most keenly. Joined from wearing separate costumes attached by a long, red fabric at each other’s chest, Will and Garrett Huxley show and sing of how love is a beautiful condition that comes with the inherent risk of being hurt by actions of the conjoined party.

Still, Duets ends (as it begins; in fact, is interwoven) with a sense of hope through Paula Russell whose graceful ballerina movements, accompanying a choice musical number, leaves you satisfied, with feelings of promise.

An enjoyable afternoon that combines mind and body, science and art, emotions and flesh.