Allison Cummings' Final Savage Land

 

Final Savage Land

Choreographed by Allison Cummings

Performed by Linnea Swan and Luke Garwood

Sound Designer and Guitarist: Lyon Smith

Production/Lighting Designer: Gabriel Cropley

Costume and Curtains: Cheryl Lalonde

Presented by Sore for Punching You

Oz Studios, 134 Ossington Avenue, Toronto

January 23-27 and January 29, 2022

 

REVIEWED BY TED FOX FOR WWW.EVIDANCERADIO.COM

Final Savage Land starts in the window of Oz Studios as we wait to be admitted. Peering through the window, we see a magical scene of a loving fairytale couple in harmony. A heavy wine-coloured curtain acts as a backdrop, evoking wonder as to what is behind it.

A man (Luke Garwood) and a woman (Linnea Swan) enter through the curtain. Holding hands, they move sinuously back and forth through the gallery. A farming couple is suggested, as each alternates in holding a pail and scattering seeds on the ground.

Outward appearances are deceptive. His body is rigid, wooden and upright, radiating forceful power and control. He leads. She follows. Her willowy fragility. Her eyes lifted in passive, devoted submission.  

Soundscape. Geese calling. Murmuring wind. Sense of open prairie space.

His arm swings back, hand claw-like grasping her shoulder. Pulling her head back. Covering her mouth. Covering her eyes. The unspoken. 

Movement becomes circular. They dance closely together. There is now the sound of static, of a record skipping. 

Their interdependence is broken when he slides away from her body. Loses balance. Lies face up on the floor. Legs open. Clasps her legs as she falls forward and up. Arms spread like wings about to take flight. Poised like the figurehead of a ship.

A violent sonic outburst. Total loss of attachment.  Movement suddenly angry, aggressive. Swan’s and Garwood’s physicality is rivetting. A portrayal of bodies in turmoil, unbalanced and no longer co-dependent. Gradually descending into the realm of a nightmarish dream.

She puts a Scold’s Bridle over his head as he sits on his throne (a lowly chair in this case). This instrument was used primarily on women in the 18th century as a form of torture, humilation and punishment.

She savagely bites into a roasted fowl and feeds him bits of it through the bars. He munches it like a caged animal. The effect is blackly humourous with a sense of the macabre.

She leaves. Now she is outside, looking through the window at us. Her face expresses silent manic laughter. There is the sound of disturbing crackling flames--is she burning him alive? Is this reality, or an expression of her state of mind. A final savage landscape of her that no longer buys into his Garden of Eden image of their life together. The Bridle a vehicle of her revenge and punishment. A temporary relapse? Will the programming reset and life continue as before?

The sound designer, Lyon Smith, and lighting designer, Gabriel Cropley, are on-stage throughout. They transform the mind-space of the audience with their dream-like soundscape. They provide clever hand-held lighting that illuminates the dancers in a sunlit texture. We become so engrossed in the characters we are seeing that we are unaware of the designers’ presence.

Choreographer Allison Cummings has created a memorable work that blends the sensibilities of fairy tales, opera, and puppetry into a magically disturbing examination of co-dependency.