The calm and the storm

대홍수 Deluge (Motherboard Productions)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

September 18 – 20

“Deluge” is a show about water as both nourisher and destroyer. The work’s initial image pays nod to its aquatic theme with a stage spread with glasses and jars full of water between its wooden post borders. There is something more arresting at front and centre of the stage, however, in the form of a wooden cabinet housing a steel urn. From there, performers come forth to offer audience members cups of tea. Moving slowly across the stage in respect as others undertake the tea-making ritual, they show control and precision. It is an intriguing introduction to which the audience easily warms, however, one which, twenty minutes into the performance time, grows tiresome.

The on-stage ‘action’ begins with a sense of melancholy as the seven performers emerge in turn, clad in dishevelled, dystopian-esque costumes, to make their way on stage in fascination of its glassware. The receptacles are moved aside and they begin to move, showcasing their sincere skill and control. There are many sublime moments of movement; the initial calm of choreography is entrancing, but, like the tea-sharing stage, almost unbearably slow in its prolonged and repetitive scenes.


After its confusingly beginning, the show’s latter scenes are a frenetic explosion. The fury of the storm’s flood is almost a tribal experience, with beats beckoning a primal response to be felt from within. This is enhanced by the guttural sounds that emerge from the dancers and the spectacular culminating, majestic vision of Jeremy Neidick arising like Neptune from sea, with a string of the deluge’s aftermath in trail. It is a fitting climax, given that it is the show’s design elements that most make for a memorable experience. Indeed, “Deluge” is a richly textured work that makes perfect use and exploration of the Powerhouse Theatre stage’s expanses. From fog to strobe, the eclectic lightening makes use of every possibility to add depth and texture to the staging.

As always, it is wonderful to see Brisbane shaking off its provincial image and reaching out to a wider world of international dance through collaborations and world premieres such as this. As a combination of contemporary dance, traditional Korean opera and live music, “Deluge” is a show rich with aesthetic. Certainly it will not be everyone’s cup of tea (pun intended) and those wishing to share in a narrative will probably be disappointed with its abstract nature and obscure early scenes. However, it is a show a show plentiful with possibility and a superb showcase of some of the best lighting I think I have ever seen.

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