120 Birds – witty, energetic and tight

120 BirdsLiz Lea wrote, produced and performs in this part dance, part theatre, part stand up and part history piece based loosely on the world of Anna Pavlova.

The script is witty and the choreography energetic and tight. There are some beautiful archival footage of turn of the century Australia, old news reels and hilarious fashion shows from ‘back in the day’ that are interdispursed throughout the piece. The script is good, the performances are good the choreography is sharp and the video is interesting and effective but overall there is too much from too many directions to make it feel completely whole.

Liz Lea is an absolute treat on stage. She responds and reacts to the audience whilst keeping the character together, she is witty and controlled with both the dialogue and movement and is roundly supported by Miranda Wheen, Melanie Fayd’herbe de Maudave and Ash Bee who all perform with humor, wit and energy. The piece begins by tracking the life and contract terms of the ballet dancer Anna Pavlova that then propels the girls to set off on their own tour of the world. They travel on trains, by boat but we miss a through line as Pavlova disappears only to resurface toward the end when her death sends the girls home to meet their older selves.

The concept is interesting, the research has been done and the delivery is sharp and funny. Perhaps the only thing needed is some judicial editing, simplification of theme and to continue the through line so the girls lives continue to parallel that of Anna Pavlova right to the end. With the changing and, some will say, disappearing Sydney danscape, it is great to see work being innovated but it leaves the responsibility of that discovery and innovation to too few choreographers (or those strong enough to stick it out) so perhaps this is an example of the responsibility to tell too many stories all at once.

It’s contains the nuggets of a great show and has had several runs both in Australia and overseas. I hope the danscape allows the continuation of experimentation and innovation for this company and many others, and allows the work to continue to grow, even after several seasons, as there is more to be done.

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