Freelance writer – creative – media-maker
Published in Limelight Magazine in February
Theatres Forecourt, Arts Centre Melbourne
February 12, 2014
Featuring three highly-trained female performers and a two-and-a-half tonne forklift, KAGE’s Forklift, directed by Kate Denborough, offers a reflection on the surprising strength and fragility of the human body.
A performer donning a high-visibility vest sets the scene as she prepares for a late-night shift in a warehouse, grabbing snacks from the vending machine and chatting with a friend. She makes her way to a forklift parked just out of view. When she returns, however, unbeknownst to her, she has been joined by two other performers — dressed in flesh-coloured bra and leggings, they emerge from the front and back of the vehicle, where they had been draped, like eerie ragdolls, just out of her sight.
The pair are wheeled around and unloaded between stacks of brown boxes, the most fragile of cargoes. Performing a pas de deux on the elevated arm of the forklift, they roll over each other in a series of intricate handstands, back-bridges, and contortionistic movements. The danger is immediate and real, calling upon the performers’ immense powers of physical intelligence. Like the most delicate machinery, their movements are choreographed to fit together fluidly and precisely.
Denborough’s careful attention to the structure of the show is evident – when the arm of the forklift crushes and pierces a cardboard box, the equally fragile human frames of the dancers who had hung off the arm moments before are still lingering in the mind. Indeed, the first two-thirds of Forklift unfold seamlessly with each sequence building effectively on the concepts and elements introduced in previous sequences to consider the possibilities of the body versus the machine, freedoms and limitations of structure, and the distinctions between physical and mechanical play and work.
However, the show reaches a premature climax about two-thirds of the way through. The performers change into black leotards with vibrant pink, green and orange stripes respectively, matching the fluoro colour scheme of the stage design, and shelved brown boxes are transformed into colourful Rubik’s cubes. The performers’ movements, along with those of that ‘fourth’ performer, the forklift are re-orchestrated as one choreographed spectacle in what feels like it should be a final montage.
Sadly, the decision to hold the Melbourne show outdoors in the theatre courtyard of the Arts Centre in daylight of the early evening meant that the fruits of KAGE’s collaboration with award-winning theatrical lighting and design company, Bluebottle 3, were essentially erased. The vibrant colour scheme and high-visibility costumes – clearly custom-made to interact with the promised UV-lighting design – were rendered partly redundant and the odd pacing may well have been a result of this oversight. Instead of stunning with a visual display, the last third of the show seemed to drag on, despite the fact Forklift is only about 50 minutes in total length. Fortunately, audience members who opt for the 9 o’clock session will be able to enjoy the show in its entirety.
For the rest of us, the other elements of the show did prove highly engaging and the performance still felt relatively complete. All three dancers – Henna Kaikula, Amy Macpherson and Nicci Wilks – impressed with their years of dance and circus training, special contortionist talents, and forklift driving skills.
Forklift is a sophisticated, multi-layered work. It imaginatively engages the creative possibilities afforded by the interplay of machineries, of the metal and the flesh, retaining a sense of play and humour throughout. To get the most out of the experience though, be sure to opt for the 9pm show.
Forklift is at Theatres Forecourt, Arts Centre Melbourne, February 12-16.