Adelaide Festival 2021 review: Supernature

Who: Australian Dance Theatre

Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre

When: Final show Sunday 14 March 1.00 pm

Tickets: here

Image via Australian Dance Theatre

As the curtain rises on Supernature, the audience is transported into an eerie new world. Mysterious structures resembling cocoons and spider webs hang from the ceiling, while a jellyfish-like blob gently breathes and pulsates on the stage. At first, this world is also populated by recognizably human figures – dancers in dark costumes, like a diver’s wetsuit, fitting for this quasi-underwater setting. But after a few minutes, we begin to notice a webbed hand – a crustacean’s armoured breastplate – too many limbs. Bodies transcend both individuality and humanity, merging and then separating again to create fantastic creatures that are partly human and partly other. Against a driving ambient/electronic soundtrack composed by Brendan Woithe, Supernature invites the audience to reconsider the boundaries between human and nature.

Conceived, directed and choreographed by ADT’s longtime Artistic Director, Garry Stewart, the 2021 Adelaide Festival production of Supernature grew out of two earlier works: the original Supernature, developed during ADT’s 2019 residency at Jacob’s Pillow in Massachussetts, USA; and Colony, commissioned by the Art Gallery of South Australia to accompany the 2020 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Monster Theatres exhibition. Together, these works examined concepts of hybridity, metamorphosis, and the future of humanity. As such, Supernature contains echoes of transhumanism, a philosophical movement that seeks to use technological advances to direct the improvement and evolution of the human species. However, rather than lingering on the role of technology, Supernature presents an unsettling yet somehow playful exploration of where mutation and evolution might lead us.

So much for the conceptual; in Supernature we find a satisfying execution. Clever choreography and outstanding coordination and skill from the dancers create a dazzling series of images and optical illusions. Supported by set and costume design inspired by natural forms, this production adeptly navigates the uncanny journey from nature to supernature.

4/5 stars

Matilda Handsley-Davis

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