Fringe Review: Dining Uns-table

by Jane

Cloé Fournier lies supine, suspended over two wooden chairs that on top of a dinner table.   Her body taut, muscles contract, feet flex. Her head whips towards the audience. “Shut up.”

“Shut up.”

“Shut up.”

This woman has been hurt.  Over the next forty minutes we watch as she tries to confront the demons of her family’s past, in particular her relationship with her abusive father, and piece together how she can put together her life.

As Fournier’s tall frame and muscular limbs contract and relax, you can see the power in her body. It’s an interesting body for a dancer, and Fournier treats it with quite a brutality as she whips an arm around this way, a leg around that, and throws her body to the floor.  In the small space you can see every fleck of Fournier’s skin ripple with the effects of her movement and its powered beauty.

Through the piece Fournier transitions from these momentous bursts of energy, limbs cracking and body flinging, to moments of quiet rigidity, legs bending and buckling as she slowly and carefully teeters.

The dance within the work, however, is all too short.  Much of Dining Uns-table is dedicated towards the set up for each scene: Fournier moving people and objects around the small playing space before trying to collect her thoughts and express them in a new way.  This disjointed collection, a series of attempts to confront a reality the woman is scared to truly face, serves the narrative well: expressed through writen word, verbal interactions, and the dance. We are not afforded much of this narrative, however, as too much of the time in the piece is in the setting.

Joining Fournier on the small Bakehouse stage are a collection of “volunteers”: “Papa” joins members from “Mama’s side” and “Papa’s side.”  Largely living props, they are moved around by Fournier and, outside of these scene transitions, largely ignored. I did wonder if the volunteers would usually be collected from the audience but Fournier wasn’t getting big enough house sizes: their contribution as a deliberate addition to the space seemed too little to justify.

In a rather unfortunate way, often the most intriguing person to watch on the stage was the man playing “Papa”: as he got bored or distracted and let his attention wander around the space; as he absentmindedly tapped is hands against his knees in rhythm with the music; as he checked his watch for the time; as he rather awkwardly and lovingly tried to help Fournier lay the table-cloth on the table without request or invitation; and, as he every now and again became aware of the audience that was watching him and tried to adjust his stance to re-relax. It was, in some ways, an unexpectedly beautiful opportunity to watch someone so natural on stage, but who wasn’t placed there as a point of audience interaction.  In more ways, it was just a distraction, another element pulling from Fournier and her technical skills.

The tension that rides through the work – through the narrative, through the choreography, through the sound, through Fournier’s body – coupled with the strength and intrigue of Fournier as a dancer make Dining Uns-table a very interesting work. It would have been nice to see more of it, and less of the transitions between it.

Cloé Fournier presents Dining Uns-table at the Bakehouse Theatre for the Adelaide Fringe. Season closed.