Vancouver East Cultural Centre

A battery opera production
Created by Lee Su-Feh and David McIntosh

Venue: Vancouver East Cultural Centre Date: 28 February at 20.00

Performers: Lee Su-Feh, Jen Murray, Billy Marchenski, Ron Stewart Musicians: David McIntosh, Chris Grove, Max Murphy, Liz Hamel

Reviewer: John Jane

Recipient of the 2002 Alcan Performing Arts Award, battery opera staged the eagerly awaited, world premiere of Cyclops at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre on Friday evening. Lee Su-Feh’s imaginative work invites the audience to join the quartet of performers on a sojourn that attempts to explore the elements of comradery, cannibalism, love, and death.

The symbolism and loose metaphorical themes do not allow too much accessability to this work. So much in the interpretation of the choreography would seem completely understood only by its creators.

The male dancers, Marchenski and Stewart, assume the comparatively linear roles as the voyagers, while those of the two females, Lee and Murray, are more abstract and surreal.

The work begins anomalously with a bare stage floor in total darkness, with only the sound of gurgling water, rather like bilge water being removed from a boat. Finally, a half light reveals a quartet of motionless figures disengaged from each other. Lee is the first to offer any motion with clipped dance movements, but soon giving rise to more fluid dance taking its form from tai chi chuan. She is eventually joined in motion by the remaining three performers in physically expressive choreography.

The two male performers are left alone on stage to translate their perils at sea through cogent contortions aided by clever sound effects, and absurd intermittent narration from David McIntosh, who did however, deliver the sea shanties with no shortage of gusto. In one such scene Marchenski and Stewart don oversized white shirts while involved in frenetic motion to represent the billowing of sails during a raging storm.

While the story is related in the more tangible performance of the male dancers, it is Lee and Murray who, with expansive forms, provide the work with its breath and depth. Lee's choreography is well structured, yet leaves enough for individual improvisation.

The title's mythical reference to Odysseus' conflict with Polyphemus, is as conjectural as any other aspect of this work. But perhaps that is teasingly deliberate, and Cyclops is really a work in progress, intended to evolve beyond its current state.

© 2003, John Jane