Out InnerSpace and Me So You So Me: And you thought your dreams were weird
Reviewed by Robin J. Miller
It starts with the Pixar animated desk lamp brought to life (you’ve seen it: it squashes the “i” in Pixar before the start of movies like Finding Nemo and Wall-E), and then it gets really crazy.
Out Innerpsace’s Me So You So Me is amazingly inventive, zany and fun. It’s also touching and slightly creepy in unexpected ways. That lamp – a bulb and lampshade attached to artistic director/dancer Tiffany Tregarthen’s head, so that it becomes her face – initially simply stares at the audience. It’s very cute, and makes us giggle. But then it looks down and discovers it has human hands; looks to the side to discover a human in white face with eyes obscured by Ben Franklyn sunglasses (artistic director/dancer David Raymond); looks back and he is gone. Let the relationship between these two odd creatures begin.
From there on (without the lampshade), it really is a classic story of boy meets girl and all the ups and downs that follow, but that story is merely a connecting device. What Tregarthen and Raymond have done is find ways to embody the impossible-to-categorize music of Japanese percussionist Asa Chang. With tremendous attention to detail, down to every articulated finger and toe, they match their movement to the sound, whatever it might be: nonsensical phrases in English, recognizable numbers in Japanese, Indian tabla, bongos and I think I heard a gamelan here and there, plus electronic noise straight from the Starship Enterprise. It should be a complete mess, but isn’t, because Asa Chang obviously believes in musical time and rhythm, so there is a feeling of melody within the madness, and that melody is within the dancers too.
Much of the hour-long piece feels like a Japanese manga cartoon: highly stylized, with dollops of slapstick humour and a repeated focus on “boy” things like robots and outer space. It’s also packed with fantastic visual images. My favourites came right at the end, when the two dancers used their bodies to create whimsical living organisms, perhaps from under the sea or maybe the next solar system. The lighting design by James Proudfoot, which included text across the dancers bodies and a projected heart on Tregarthen’s chest, added a whole other layer to the complexity of dance and music.
If there is a bit of a “but” to this piece, it’s that it’s hard to care about the relationship between these two characters, because they are more often characters than people. And yet the linking device is their relationship, so maybe they need to grow a bit beyond their childish or childlike personas? That said, one of the delights is watching the two dancers together: Tregarthen is long and lanky, with a delicacy to her limbs, while Raymond is stockier, more athletic. They shouldn’t fit together, yet they do.