In modern times it feels like every season brings a new crisis whether economic, social, environmental, or a combination of all three. Using Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons as inspiration, Force Majeure’s The Last Season explores intergenerational relationships through the increasing pressures on society as we know it.
The piece starts with birth as 13 little grubs (Isabel Bantog, Owen Beckman-Scott, Luka Brett-Hall, Maddie Brett-Hall, Imala Cush, Niamh Cush, Nicholas Edwards, Ember Henninger, Piper Kemp, Poppy McKinnon, Julia Piazza, Tallulah Pickard, Louis Ting) wiggle out of their suspended chrysalises, shivering and shedding as they come into their new bodies. Over the course of the four seasons, the creatures will encounter a series of mentors who teach them the necessary skills for survival like love, desire, and patience.
The Last Season is immediately transformative with the large Carriageworks Bay 17 venue filled with large glowing chrysalises hanging in a peaceful blue light. The production design, with set and costume by Marg Horwell and lighting by Damien Cooper, was exceptionally beautiful, emanating a calm and restorative atmosphere. The mossy costumes of the little creatures contrasted with the mystical elaboration of Pamela Rabe’s gown and Paul Capsis’s after-hours drag like the contrast between soft, natural innocence and harsh, jaded contemporary reality. But underneath the calm lighting, angelic music (performed live by Susie Bishop, Niki Johnson, Kelly Ryall, Freya Schack-Arnott), and familiar boomer jabs at social media, there lurks something unpredictable in this story, something threatening and unknown to the audience.
Danielle Micich as director and choreographer crafted a magical, mesmerising alternative world in the Last Season that offers flashes of nature, hallmarks of the contemporary anthropocene, but also hints of the future in a delicate, refracting narrative. The children performers as these wiggling, silent creatures are inquisitive and naive but powerful and capture the essence goodness in people. While the mentors do their best, there is something essential missing in the connection between the two generations; a metaphor for the ways the previous generations have failed the planet and their children.
Rabe attempted to maintain the goodness of the creatures but loses her grasp on them when she discovered their ability to create. Capsis was dismissive and condescending, losing their respect before he’d even begun. Then Olwen Fouéré offered a hypnotic sequence with fascinating use of the breath, restraint, and physical touch. But it’s in the final scene of the production that Micich’s message rings crystalline. After the creatures have shed their skins, reached their final forms, the mentors sit off to the side playing a game of cards, having washed their hands of their roles. Now the stage is open for the children to explore, learn, play, create, and step into their own.
The Last Season is a beautiful recognition of children as full beings and inheritors of all that came before them. The performances were outstanding; unusual and evocative with an emotive use of production design and atmosphere.
The Last Season ran at Carriageworks from January 6th – 10th as part of Sydney Festival
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