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Camel continues within the trend of minimalist work so often presented in Melbourne, but here we have performers not even necessarily engaging in the choreographic form, reacting in the first instance to computer generated sounds and technology. It’s a stark work, most often choosing not work with an underpinning score, which is fine, but for audiences, more is needed to effectively create an engaging and thought provoking work.

It starts with the greatest of intentions, in fact opening scenes, bordered on being side split-tingly funny, but unfortunately, the material here wears thin, then only to border on the simply tedious before too long. It seems to be nothing more than a performance that aimed way too high to be squarely positioned in the realms of the obscure for the sake of anything close to resembling a plot, continuity or through line. It threw the most random of objects into the ring and hopped for the best, delving deeper into some pretty un-imaginative and bleak territory. Costuming, or as described in the program notes as being “anti-costumes” here are blue morph suits, unfortunately the resulting effect was as if audiences where watching four Smurfs engaged in some bizarre art-house film you may stumble across late night on SBS…

However, James Andrew provided some much needed relief, proving the antidote to this soupy mess of an ill-thought and poorly devised work, the deathly silence mid performance interrupted by his loud slurping from an empty cup, from this point of introduction he continues in the role of provocateur, almost emanating a sense of boredom.

The first thing here that could be corrected is the run time, clocking in at an hour and fifteen minutes, condensing some of the overly long sequences and drawing on what moments of quality where present- sections of the drum kit, seemingly sliding across the stage away from precisionist Michael McNab- would do wonders for the overall work. Better use or further activation surrounding site, reducing the size of the performance space would perhaps tighten the work visually, or more importantly bring audience and performer closer to each other. What moments of music present, where the perfect accompany- such device would do well being further incorporated into the performance.

Camel is a work in need of further development and time in the studio, perhaps not ready for public presentation, though opportunities or experiences such as those provided by Next Wave Festival are important stepping stones or lessons that should prove invaluable in the development of an artist. It would be interesting to watch future development unfold, and though at present, Camel is perhaps a little confused, a second presentation would be an idea not without merit.

Camel has finished it’s season

Photo credit: Sarah Walker