REVIEW | Manifesto

Simply Joyous From the First to the Very Last Thumping Beat of the Drum

Stephanie Lake Company

Reviewed by Brendan Daynes

Manifesto by Stephanie Lake Company is simply breathtaking. It is billed as ‘Nine Dancers. Nine Drummers. Manifesto is performance stripped back to its bare elements – rhythm and movement, drumming and dancing.’ Playing during Melbourne’s recent Rising festival, it was everything that it claimed to be and more.

Composer Robin Fox has created a musical masterpiece using just one instrument and the outcome is astonishing. Who’d ever thought that nine drum kits could create such an amazingly varied soundtrack? The nine drummers who are seated above and behind the dancers, on a dais inspired set designed by Charles Davis, work their individual drum kits with such skill and intricacy that it would be easy to simply get caught up in their performance. The array of sounds created really is surprising with each of the drummers showing how talented they are as solo artists and also working as part of an ensemble to play a soundtrack that is full bodied and has so many layers that it has to believe that you aren’t listening to a full orchestra.

In addition to the spectacle that is the live soundtrack, choreographer Stephanie Lake has hit it out of the ball park with the movement. The nine dancers, clad in various white outfits by Costume Designer Paula Levis, skilfully perform athletic choreography that is just as diverse and layered as the musical accompaniment. The show opens with a single dramatic thump of drums which brings the dancers to life, moving them from pose to pose in an opening scene that showcases their personality and cheekiness. This rhythm and the movement build in tempo, volume and spectacle until the dancers are all working together to flawlessly execute gorgeous technical contemporary choreography. For the next hour the dancers work, as soloist, in duets and trios and as and ensemble, as extension of the musicians allowing the audience to witness the conversation taking place between both groups of artists. At times it seems as though it is the music dictating the movement and at others this is reversed with the dancers communicating, and even conducting, the drummers with their movement which illustrates the brilliance of Lake’s choreography.

The most amazing part and a true indication of the brilliance of Manifesto was how it captured and mesmerised each and every audience member from the first thumping drum beat to the final bow. Each and every rhythm and movement was executed with precision, demonstrating the technical prowess of the dancers and drummers and the genius of the score and choreography. Manifesto is more than deserving of the thunderous applause and standing ovation it received and is simply breathtaking.

Stephanie Lake Company presented Manifesto as part of Rising Festival at Malthouse Theatre in Southbank, Victoria from 9-12 June 2022.

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