Edinburgh Fringe 2009
A stunning fusion of physical theatre and dance that is truly beautiful to behold, Love Machines is a warm-hearted journey of discovery and joy.
Love Machines from the Kataklo Athletic Dance Theatre is a visual feast of contemporary dance and physical theatre. In a timeless, geographically unidentifiable space, two inept explorers find themselves in a landscape of slanted structures that they can only attempt to climb, becoming frustrated in their efforts as they work against each other. These slanted structures each house a being that looks both like and unlike our explorers. At first these beings look threatening, but soon it becomes apparent that they live in a state of harmony, working together to mount the strange structures. Slowly our hapless explorers are drawn into the carefree existence of these people, and discard their old way of seeing.
The different ways of seeing are represented by the lights that our explorers wear on their foreheads like scuba divers. The reference to the subterranean does not stop there – their green and blue costumes and powerful yet jerky movements combine to give a froglike, reptilian cast to the explorers. The choreography is spectacular , showcasing the formidable abilities the company’s ex-Olympic gymnasts and professional athletes, yet every movement drives the narrative. As they perform their almost Sisyphean attempts to climb these slanting structures in an eerily lit landscape, it seems like the very structures themselves are against them as they come together and slide away. This dance between explorer and world is beautifully done, portraying a sense of impermanence and unknowability that dwarves the explorers and leaves them in tears as they fight each other in their frustrated attempts to master the unknown structures.
From a theatrical perspective this show is flawless. Stunningly choreographed, incredibly performed and beautifully choreographed, it is a visual treat from the moment the silhouettes of the explorers first appear eerily as they spin in midair through the darkness. Silhouettes are used to great effect – there is a lovely moment when the other beings, so alien looking and other in their costumes, are juxtaposed by their shadows thrown against the backdrop, which look like nothing more than a glamorous cocktail party of human beings greeting each other and mingling gracefully.
Unfortunately, this superior production played to a half-empty theatre, and several people walked out for reasons unfathomable to me. Physical theatre can often be too high-concept for anyone other than devoted enthusiasts, but Love Machines has a highly accessible narrative and the choreography, while not exactly traditional, was not so challenging that it would turn anyone off. In fact, I would recommend it as the perfect introduction to the genre. Love Machines is a warm-hearted, beautifully staged piece of theatre, but it needs a bigger audience for the magic to truly happen.