Realising the Mens Rea

Mens Rea: The Shifter’s Intent (Raghav Handa)

Judith Wright Centre, Performance Space

July 8 – 9

In the dark, sparse space that is the opening moments of “Mens Rea: The Shifter’s Intent” it is easy to suspect an interpretive dance show of contemplative stillness. It is soon clear, however, that this is far from the case, as its soundscape booms, assaulting almost in its dominance and adding much to the work in its battle with the dancer and creator Raghav Handa, as if another character almost.

Handa’s contemporary dance skill is hypnotic, which makes for a moving performance as he dances with the soundscape, rather than on top or behind it, in exploration of the concept of shape-shifting, set against the background of the Hindu epic Ramayana. Shifting between three of its principal characters Jatayu (a demi-god vulture), Sita (the wife of the god Rama) and Ravana (a shape-shifting demon), Handa explores how their changing intentions trigger physical and emotional transformations.

The obvious Indian narrative impact, is clear, as is the show’s inspiration from Indigenous Australian shape-shifting stories. And the musical mix of influences works well, especially when the combination morphs into a more modern sensibility.

Mens rae.jpg

A latter section exploration of shape-shifting on a modern technological level sees audiences needing to don 3D glasses to experience the virtual characters created by Melbourne’s Deakin Motion Lab. The result in quite mesmerising as Handa engages in stylised battle with a 3D bird, to the point that well after the section has finished, many audience members are still so absorbed as to not realised that they are still wearing their glasses.

“Mens Rea: The Shifter’s Intent” is well-paced and, at 50 minutes duration, perfectly timed to maintain audience interest without lull. Its fusion of diverse traditional movement and stories and contemporary dance is as interesting as it is innovative in realisation of its aim to investigate both the physical form and human duality of desire to both nurture and destroy.


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