Review: Collision Course and Paul Culliver

Review by Adam Clarke of Collision Course and Paul Culliver is the Best Newcomer

Date attended: Friday 21 August 2015

It has been hard to miss that Anywhere Festival has been about to start in Frankston this year. After discovering the first festival days before it closed last year the anticipation has been building for me since I picked up a program a few weeks ago. Driving to the day job I got a not so little reminder every day I drove along Eastlink and passed the huge banners. So points to their marketing team.

 The festival has now arrived and my plans for the first night were to head along to see the video projection Collision Course and then to Paul Culliver Is The Best Newcomer tonight instead of tomorrow, as The Golden Age had already sold out and I had forgotten to book. Tomorrow I shan’t be missing it.

After watching a glorious sunset over Port Philip Bay I made my way over to Cube 37 next to the Frankston Arts Centre to see the video projection work Collision Course by Australian Dance Theatre.

Collision Course was developed by Australian Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director Garry Stewart in collaboration with CM Film Productions. The video features 48 extreme slow motion collisions between dancers, boxers, martial artists, gymnasts, football players and street culture enthusiasts. The high-speed video used to capture the collisions, manipulates time and perception through slowing down movement.

The first thought that occurred to me is that the piece was being wasted in its location on the front of Cube 37. People in cars driving past pass it before they see it is there when coming from the east and if coming from the west it is unlikely enough traffic would be queued up at the nearby free flowing intersection to get more than a glimpse.

As a pedestrian I had to stand well back and a little too close to the road to be able to take in the full scale of the projection without being conscious of the cars metres away from me that were definitely not going in slow motion.

I feel Collision Course would work far more effectively in an area where people are hustling and bustling (closer to the shopping centre maybe), where the extreme slow motion collisions between different dancers could provide a real counterpoint and moment to reflect. It is also a piece that shows how hard it is for two (or three or four) people to collide together intentionally without hurting each other and with no other aim. In many of the slowed down snippets you could see dancers’ face smiling and their bodies preparing for contact. I felt the set up removed a certain amount of spontaneity and honesty that you see when watching a slo-mo replay of two football players making contact in a game when they both have the ball as their goal and not just colliding. As a study of human movement and an opportunity to simply slow down for a moment, it is still well worth a look.

In the spirit of Anywhere Festival “exploring the nooks and crannies” I parked on Beach street and wandered into a surprise (for me) art gallery exhibition in the old dental clinic now managed by Frank Regional Artists. I didn’t know much about the work there, or to be honest that is existed, but there are some very interesting works on display and for sale by local artists who also work from the space. The opening night showed it was definitely a popular initiative and the exhibition will be open for a little while so I’d definitely recommend poking your head in to look around and grabbing what I must say is one of my best coffees in recent memory from Fresh Start Organic Cafe who operate from a van out the front.

Coffee was a recurring motif for the evening as I made my way over to Stereo Espresso. On my way there I appreciated the challenge of presenting a festival in the nooks and crannies. The thought hit me after I walked through the still bustling shopping centre and out onto the Well Street Mall, the location for many Anywhere Festival performances over the next couple of weeks, to be met with footpaths being ripped up and a digger. If you are going to put on a festival to explore the nooks and crannies of Frankston it would make sense to have it happen after any street work has been done so people can see the improvements made instead of having to see it in progress. Unless of course that can be incorporated into the festival. I’d stand around and watch a show performed on a stationery digger.

I walked around the much narrowed footpath past the digger to Stereo Espresso for Paul Culliver is the Best Newcomer at 8pm and I am so glad I wasn’t put off by the footpath works. What I experienced is what for me the festival is all about and not just because I had my second excellent coffee for the evening.

In the small and very cute Stereo Espresso space, it felt like I was with a small group of close friends seeing a secret performance. Paul Culliver made the most of the intimate environment, being immediately familiar and able to throw away the normal accoutrement of stand up comedy venues and simply told stories of how to save time he performs at festivals and self proclaims himself as the “best newcomer” until someone says otherwise. Using this premise as a launch pad, Paul covered everything from how nuclear war is actually exciting to what HR managers could learn from Game of Thrones to his Monty Python Esque encounter with Robert Doyle, who we are reliably informed is the Melbourne Lord Mayor and is a politician. That’s Robert Doyle, who is a politician and the Melbourne Lord Mayor. That isn’t a spoiler, I’m just saving you and Paul some time.

That last anecdote I think was a “bonus bit”, but such was the intimacy of the performance that it felt the cuddly and self proclaimed “slightly squidgy” Paul and his “fitbit” made the whole show feel like a bonus. Definite go-see!