REVIEW | Anito

AnitoArts House (c) Sarah Walker


Experience the Visceral Magic of ANITO’s Interdisciplinary Brilliance

Reviewed by Brendan Daynes

ANITO, a production that seamlessly melds the ancient with the avant-garde, emerges from the fertile landscape of Sydney’s underground queer and diasporic club scenes. Co-conceived, directed, and performed by Justin Talplacido Shoulder, this compelling piece stands as a testament to the power of interdisciplinary art. It offers a vibrant and visceral exploration of Filipino folklore, reimagined for contemporary audiences.

The performance space itself becomes a living entity, crafted by hands and activated by bodies, where megafauna dance through deep time and spectres trace the trajectory of humanity in reverse. The plot, though abstract, is deeply evocative. Roots from the ancestral underworld fracture the colonial foundations, allowing a world of sheer terror and tremendous beauty to emerge. This narrative is conveyed through a seamless integration of costume, puppetry, drag, dance, and experimental electronic music. The production design by Matthew Stegh and Justin Talplacido Shoulder is nothing short of transformative, as sets morph and evolve before the audience’s eyes, creating an immersive experience that blurs the line between the corporeal and the ethereal.

One of the most striking elements is the costume design, which plays a pivotal role in the storytelling. The costumes, crafted by Brenda Lam, Anthony Aitch, and Luna Aquatica, are not mere adornments but essential components that shape the characters and the narrative. They transform performers into mythical creatures and otherworldly beings, enhancing the surreal and dreamlike atmosphere of the show. The meticulous attention to detail and the inventive use of materials result in costumes that are both mesmerising and haunting, contributing to the overall visual spectacle.

The lighting and vision design by Fausto Brusamolino, coupled with the evocative sound design and live score by Corin Ileto, further elevate the production. The interplay of light and shadow, along with the strategic use of smoke, creates a dramatic effect and ambient texture that accentuates the otherworldly nature of the performance. These elements work in perfect harmony with the choreography, often making it difficult to discern where one ends and another begins. It is a symbiotic relationship that renders the entire production a living, breathing entity.

The dancers are simply sublime, showcasing exceptional skill and control despite the abstract movement vocabulary. Each movement is precise and intentional, creating a language that transcends words. The choreography, which incorporates elements of traditional dance forms and contemporary movement, is both haunting and hypnotic, drawing the audience into a world that is at once familiar and alien.

ANITO is truly art in motion, where every element—set, lighting, movement, dancers, and costumes—moves in perfect unison to create a cohesive and immersive experience. This groundbreaking production challenges perceptions, ignites the imagination, and honours its cultural roots while forging new narratives for the future. Its impact extends beyond aesthetic achievements, captivating the senses and challenging the mind, leaving an indelible impression on its audience. ANITO is not just a performance; it is an experience that must be witnessed to be fully appreciated.

ANITO played as part of Melbourne’s RISING festival at ARTSHOUSE from 5th June – 9th June 2024. For more information or to book your tickets, visit

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