The Pulse | Gravity & Other Myths

Image by Jacquie Manning

If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s the necessity of community resilience. As wave after wave of COVID-19 variances have hit Australian shores, our communities have taken a beating but the future promises even more challenges as climate change continues to alter the systems and processes that hold our society together. The Pulse recognises and recreates these societal cycles in a marriage of light, sound, and movement.

As a collaboration between physical theatre Gravity & Other Myths and the Sydney Philharmonia Choir’s VOX, the Pulse is a large ensemble piece that mixes vocals with circus, dance, and a strong production design for an exploration of the basics of humanity. With the choir dressed in black and the movement performers in whites and greys, the two groups circled each other like magnetised poles before releasing to mingle in moments of relief. The tension represented in the staging of this collaboration anchored the performance and allowed for a subtle building of momentum from the opening scene.

Director Darcy Grant aimed to cover enormous ideas of humanity, impossibility, and the relationship between human and environment with this production. The gravity of that endeavour came through in the sound design with composition by Ekrem Eli Phoenix and conducting by Christie Anderson. The choir moved through states of methodical, distanced counting and narration into raw and deeply emotive strings of guttural sobs and screams that amplified the urgency and impact of the movement performers. At the same time, integration of a strong lighting design by Geoff Cobham further added to the narrative aspects of the performance by creating distinct acts including a bright but scattered white state, rich and vivid backlighting that turned the performers into silhouettes, and a pixelated, futuristic setting that made the repetitive movements into a kind of code. Between the sound and lighting design, Grant balanced the extremes of the spectrum of human endeavour, organic to inorganic, digital to natural, which created a vast narrative landscape for the performers to navigate.

An image returned to again and again was crumbling, falling, breaking as well as the inevitable getting back up again. Performers collided together into heaps, threw themselves on the ground to be stood on, and created countless human towers that all eventually fell. Over and over again the process repeated, creating a cyclic, recognisable pattern for the world of the Pulse, a simplified extrapolation of a larger human history. And, like in all good circus, there was the continuous presence of a palpable camaraderie between the performers; teamwork and trust demonstrated as a vital part of the unbelievable feats of strength, balance, and skill. These examples of community and resilience stood out from this representation of humanity as reliable and necessary elements to the narrative and the performance overall.

The Pulse ran at the Roslyn Packer Theatre from January 6th – 9th

Night Writes stands in solidarity with Palestinian people, activists, and BDS organisers as they call for a boycott of Sydney Festival 2022. Night Writes condemns the sponsorship of Sydney Festival by the Israeli Embassy as collaboration with an apartheid regime. By refusing to return the sponsorship, Sydney Festival has compromised itself and its programmed artists two years into a pandemic that has devastated the arts community. For more information and to sign the open letter, visit here.

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