KAGE’s Out of Earshot at Adelaide Cabaret Festival

The Adelaide Cabaret Festival is back again with an exciting program that pushes the boundaries past the typical cabaret style production many of us are accustomed to.

KAGE‘s Out of Earshot is an example, as it translates more than just glitz, glamour and the very things we think of when we say ‘cabaret’. This physical performance is layered with dance, music, digital media, and connotations about the essence of movement, sound and sight. It specifically targets the idea of what it’s like to feel and see sound by listening with your heart and instinct instead of your ears. It’s clear that director Kate Denborough explores these notions that centre around those who can’t rely on their hearing by the feature of deaf dancer Anna Seymour.

Dressed in all black against a backdrop fitted with screens and fluorescent LED lights, the dancers create sound through their movements and emotive reactions to what’s happening around them. The use of incredibly bright LED lights on-screen doesn’t make for comfortable viewing though, and almost interrupts the audience experience, trying to look away to refresh the eyes in between bouts of sets. Drummer Myele Manzanza is a central part of the performance, drumming on a transportable platform where he’s almost in charge of the intense music blaring and filling our ears. He forms a multifaceted string of sounds with the heavy beats of his drum kit that create sound-waves while the dancers tap, grip or embrace each others’ bodies to the visual cues that resemble heartbeats or vibrations, digitised on-screen. As he draws us in, the dancers fill the space intuitively; their bodies flail or counteract one another with a strong force, as they push and pull at each others’ physiques. There’s an identifiable relationship between all performers who equally stand out on stage.

Movement is a pivotal part of how sound is taken in – you don’t only hear sound, you feel it too. This reminded me of the feeling you get in your chest after a night out around loud music. Surprisingly, harsh sounds that travel through our ear canal and into the eardrum can actually create a pounding heart. The performers Anna Seymour, Elle Evangelista, Timothy Ohl and Gerard Van Dyck do the theme justice and sincerely convey that they connect to the foundations of the work.

Although comprising a profound idea, and excellent and riveting drum work, the piece felt a little slow in the beginning, until Rage Against the Machine grabbed our attention once again. After this, it felt a little monotonous, as though we were experiencing the same movements, all over again. It did change up and was injected with personal twists on popular songs like Nicki Minaj, but there seemed to be a lack of continuity. However, there were no significant problems with it either, and the interpretation of acting out emotion instead of holding it in is something that positively stands out; to go with the bursts of energy and thought that flow in and out of us at any given moment, instead of going against them.

Kate does well in conveying an interesting idea into a physical spectacle, but Out of Earshot didn’t exactly pull at my heartstrings, and didn’t really leave me wanting more, like that lingering wow factor you feel long after you exit the theatre.


Image: Adelaide Festival Centre

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