Maximum (La Boite Indie and Natalie Abbott)
La Boite Theatre, La Boite Studio
November 25 – December 5
Sometimes shows are so physical as to make audiences easily appreciate their compact running times. This becomes the case early into the 50 minute marathon that is “Maximum” as its two performers, Natalie Abbott and Nathan Daveson, begin its strict choreography, including running in circles and then floor patterns around and about the room. Although they wear matching outfits of black singlets, silver shorts and colourful runners, this is where the similarities both begin and end. She is a lithe dancer and he is a beefy bodybuilder. As the comparative study of bodies with vastly different training and forms continues, her dancer stamina becomes clear; she is barely breathless while the sweat soon pools from Daveson.
The duo repeat unison of the simple circuit almost unrelentingly before finally continuing on a series of other acts of physical endurance. Pattern and form are explored though fitness drills of lunges, toe taps and a final 10-minute lift sequence in which Daveson attempts to hold Abbott aloft, with her standing on his thighs as he swivels about in a circle, each attempt more slippery, sweaty and precarious than the prior. While there is a definite rhythm to the work, it is difficult to watch, demanding a unique patience of attention.
Although billed as “a duet between a female contemporary dancer and male professional bodybuilder”, “Maximum” is far from a dance show. While its soundscape is sharp, without dialogue beyond the military-like shout of sports drills, it is difficult for an audience connection to be engendered. In this case, engagement is of the intellectual kind, and there are lots of opportunities to ponder its purpose during the pockets of echoing silence that creep into the experience.
“Maximum” is far from a traditional theatrical work and, as such, will automatically provoke mixed audience reactions. It is most curious in the lack of clearly-imposed metaphors in its minimalist extremes and contrasts. As its performers are pushed to the limits of exertion, some comment is clearly being made on gender and human vulnerability, but in a manner that allows each audience member to independently meditate upon its message. Indeed, its ambiguous themes and confronting platform for their exploration, are perfect fit for La Boite Indie which serves to nurture independent theatre.
Although “Maximum” represents the last ever La Boite Indie show, there is still anticipation to its replacement Hwy program, as the company moves from the presenting platform to one of more centralised, increased involvement, with six diverse artists-in-residence showing work in a two week festival in June with the aim of engaging audiences in the artistic process.