The dance theatre piece White Porcelain Doll, is the first full-length work presented Prying Eye Productions, as part of the Judith Wright Centre’s Fresh Ground initiative.
Husband and wife collaborators, choreographers, and performers, Lizzie and Zaimon Vilmanis, during their residency with the Judith Wright Centre, explored the horrifying subject of survival as a long-term captive. Based on real stories, the couple pieced together a story that explored the captive’s strength and instinctual will to survive in an unimaginably long-term abusive hostage situation.
Combining an improvised soundtrack themed ‘Marionette in a Bag’ by composer Rayadan Jeavons, and simple set design by Bruce McKinven, consisting of a chair covered in plastic, a large metal chest and a trapdoor, provided the aptly lifeless and uneasy environment in which captive and captor inhabits. The addition of video projections against the large cyclorama really added to the visual aesthetic. The projections on the body were particularly noteworthy, if not a little abstract.
The story is told through a series of vignettes including dance, choreographed movement, and snapshots. A style that is hard to put into one genre, sits more towards dance theatre, as it consisted of only a handful of actual pure dance segments. While the choreographed movement was interesting, it was a little repetitive and drawn out at times.
I also mention ‘snapshots’ as there were many singular moments of passing time, conveying the various emotional states of the captive, strung together by fade to blacks… a lot. In fact, it felt like a quarter of the sixty-minute show was in blackout. Of course it wasn’t, but it felt like it.
I understand that a captive’s life is monotonous, depressing, and even boring at times without any outside stimulation. This poses a challenge to convey the emotion of boredom or tedium without transferring the feeling and risking audience disengagement.
Lizzie Vilmanis, who has performed with the Expressions Dance Company, plays the hostage with total commitment. It must be an ordeal going through that willingly each night. By the end of the show Lizzie is stripped almost bare, hair covered in feathers, and body covered in tape.
Zaimon Vilmanis, who has also performed both in Australia and overseas, plays the captor. Zaimon’s solo dance piece was a nice unassuming start to the show, but it was the pas de deux sections which I found particularly engaging. More of these dynamic passages to tell the story would be a welcome addition.
White Porcelain Doll played at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts until August 2.