Review: Sound Affairs in Boulevard of Broken Dreams at The Place

Performance: 27 & 28 Feb 09
Reviewed by Katie Fish - Monday 2 March 2009

Jean Abreu, Sound Affairs, 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams' 27-28 Feb, The Place

Sound Affairs’ *Boulevard of Broken Dreams* is a live music and dance collaboration drawing on the talents of composer Charlie Barber, choreographer Jean Abreu, and The Mavron String Quartet.

As the band, or troupe of buskers, begin to play, a restless sleeper (Abreu) rolls over and around himself as if in a state of semi-conscious turmoil or angst. Other characters file through the dark, smokey ‘boulevard’, each one seemingly searching and detached as they hesitantly explore the unfamiliar territory. As they turn and falter, they collide, startled by the presence of both the other lost roamers and the buskers, who seem bemused and entertained by the effect of their lively playing.

As they wander, they reveal something of their individual personas: a hoody-clad youth holds a handstand on a bench before sitting pensively, yet with an air of aggression; a foreign student traces meandering pathways, each leading no closer to his destination, if he has one. An older man limps around clutching his newspaper as if it were a sacred keep-sake. There are sudden moments of synchrony, full of counter-balances, low lunges, sudden changes in direction, the dancers remaining unaware of each other, moving automatically.

All seem to be driven by relentless energy as they shunt, jump and lift each other over the bench, turning towards and away from it, as if it were a sort of shrine in this otherwise empty space. Whether this shared energy is from frustration, want or despair, it compels the dancers to run and jump at the wall, hurtle themselves across the space and execute frenzied barrel-type jumps. The musicians’ playing serves to heighten this sense of agitation, enveloping the space with its stirring rhythms.

Often Abreu adopts the role of voyeur, silently observing as the trio’s melange of emotions is played-out. As the older man sits reading his newspaper, Abreu slips around and under him, turning him around, taking his paper and using it to orchestrate his movements like a puppeteer.

The student stumbles across the stage, dropping an empty Strongbow bottle as he does so. He leans into the older man, content to remain resting against him, as the other supports, lifts, pushes him in an attempt to prevent him falling.

The youth strides nonchalantly towards the bench, sitting on it, stamping his feet, flicking his wrists and executing a back-flip as if it were second nature. He is approached by the older man, and they begin a companionable duet, him teaching the other to flick his wrists like a pro. Soon all four dancers are stamping out a rhythm with their hands and feet, and this is picked up by the cellist who beats it out on the body of her instrument.

The dance develops into a climax of fast turns, arms striking the space, the newly acquainted strangers supporting, following, copying each other in an unspoken truce, content to share this boulevard in which broken dreams, if not fixed, are at least soothed.

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