Anyone who witnessed Brisbane’s last ‘great floods’ would have been awed by the quiet yet powerful presence of the emboldened river as it ran through our streets and buildings. It is this same sense of awe, at the complete and undeniable power of mother nature that Jeremy Neideck has exquisitely captured in Deluge, presented by The Brisbane Power House for the Brisbane Festival.
Described as experimental dance (perhaps more for a need of categorisation than anything), Deluge really does defy genre as it draws together not only physical theatre and lush operatic drama, but also martial arts, Butoh (Japanese dance theatre) and Pansori (traditional Korean storytelling using song). It conveys a sense of ancient worlds that describe a culture we all share deep within us. Beneath a skin that distinguishes us as this race or another, is the culture of nature, the elements, and specifically water – the molecule that nurtures human life and so savagely steals it away.
We start by collectively ingesting water in the form of a drawn-out tea service. It is ritualistic and provides time for contemplation and consumption of the theme, as if by swallowing the mystic life-force we are somehow contributing to the rising of its God. The performers serve tea to almost the entire audience until the performers are the only ones left moving slowly through the space. Once the ceremony is finished, the stage is fully revealed and it feels like we are underneath a peer or a dock, and with the worn brick walls of the original powerhouse revealed, a personal history of inundation is hauntingly present. The performers appear in evocative costume (Noni Harrison) reminiscent of a Japanese woodblock print of an angry green wave. They embody the tide as it washes from side to side collecting the debris of humanity and neatly depositing it around the pylons, a reminder of how slow yet purposeful water can be.
I really enjoyed this unique performance, although some might find the first twenty minutes (of tea) a little tedious, but the storm, once it arrives is spectacular and worth the wait. The built-up air-pressure is finally eased when the mythical Poseidon (Neideck himself) is called forth and the sounds that emanates from him is at once divine and shattering as the pylons spill over in an brilliant moment of choreography and production design (Sarah Winter). Since the dawn of existence, humans have worshipped gods and creators in order to quell their fury – Neideck’s has reworked this ancient reverence to produce a moving new experience.
It goes without saying (although I will) that this show is not for those intolerant of experimental or left-of-centre creativity but for those who are willing to widen their cultural consumption and expand their theatrical tastes. For those, I absolutely recommend seeing this show. The short-run Brisbane Festival appearance has come to a close unfortunately and Deluge is headed to Asia for shows throughout October but keep your eyes out for future Australian dates. Deluge is one of those productions that you reflect on for days after the show.