30 October 2006


MIAF 2006
dumb type
Melbourne International Arts Festival
18 October 2006
the Arts Centre , Playhouse

Voyage is certainly a trip. Fly, float, dive, swim, drown and climb through dumb type’s bizarre and beautiful world.

Formed in Kyoto in 1984, dumb type is a democratic collective bringing together artists from backgrounds in theatre, dance, video, painting, sculpture, music, design and architecture. Working without a director or script, performances develop organically as members share their own ideas around a theme. The company admit that it is a chaotic process that takes time, but it results in some startlingly art.

In late 2001 the dumb type artists independently developed pieces without any theme or concept. By working with unlimited freedom, they found a commonality. The result is Voyage. Travel and journey may be a comman narrative theme, but this voyage is far from ordinary.

dumb type don’t comment or narrate. They simply let powerful images speak for themsleves. The audience can chose to interpret deep meaning into each moment or simply sit back and enjoy the ride.

The images combine low tech with complex multi-media art. Two men sweeping white rocks around the stage take us deep into a cave, while giant projections take us flying through a performace poem about wishes. Projections are given depth by using the simple effect of a reflective floor.

The opening piece is the most striking of the show. A single pale dancer repeats very linear shapes among three giant spheres. The lighting changes on each sphere are stunning. The same dancer concludes the evening by repeating the same movements in front of the very complicated images of a radar screen. She gives a sense of narrative arc to the show. The world she journeys through has changed from simple, natural and symbolic to complex, technical and detailed – but she remains as she was.

Voyage is also filled with cheeky humour. I felt that the opening night audience were too scared to laugh - in case it wasn’t meant to be funny. Airline hosties in bright coloured berets and bright coloured knickers are funny in any context.

This show isn’t for everyone’s taste. A gentleman sitting behind me steadfastly refused to clap during the ovation. It is nonetheless, a work that firmly belongs in an international arts festival. Voyage is something we normally wouldn’t see in Australia and a style of practice that wouldn’t be conceived here.

This review originally appeared on AussieTheatre.com.

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