Perth Festival co-commission and world premiere of The Last Great Hunt’s latest production, “Lé Nør”, is perhaps the most ambitious and meticulous of productions that Perth audiences have seen in recent years. It is apparent that a lot of time, effort, love and expertise has gone into this production, which is staged at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA): a perfect venue due to the depth of the performance space.
Described in the synopsis as “a faux foreign film live on stage” the creators of “Lé Nør” have invented an imagined island metropolis called Sólset with its own language, loosely defined as “Icelandic meets Russian meets Frenchish”. Glimpses into the lives and relationships of the people living in an apartment block are enacted and filmed behind or to the side of the screen and the action is projected straight onto the screen for the audience to watch. The close-up filming allows small set pieces and miniature models to be used to great effect, and the audience to just focus on the people: what they are feeling, and what they are saying, which is assisted by English surtitles.
The imagined island of Sólset has been subjected to a severe drought which has obviously changed some cultural aspects of everyday life for the islanders. However, the ten year period of the drought has meant that the lifestyles have, to a certain extent, become normalised and remained humanised, reverting to preoccupations of searching for love, or dealing with rejection and loss. This approach opposes the usual dystopian narrative of people dealing with potentially apocalyptic events, but conveniently side steps any socio-environmental-political statement or position.
Instead, the creators of “Lé Nør” allow the sentimentality to blend with the production’s themes and approach ofan affectionate satire of Nordic/European films with an ‘80s aesthetic that hilariously reproduces the hair, makeup and costumes of the era. The moment when the characters take off the wigs to finally be able to wash their hair is a poignant reminder of the simple things of everyday life that the effects of natural forces (and unnatural forces) can take away. When Lé Nør (which means ‘the rain’) finally comes to the island, the relief is short lived as the residents face catastrophic flooding and need to be rescued from the roof of the apartment block.
The creators of “Lé Nør” have devised a performancethat tips it’s hat to filmmaking, before CGI and other forms of technology, yet it is also very tech heavy, with multiple cameras, editing, and real time producing that will strike awe in audiences as they witness the volume of work and precision required to undertake such an inspired project. This project ultimately requires a strong team of people who have all risen to the challenge, including: Associate Director Matt Edgerton; Set and Gadget Designer Anthony Watts; Sound Designer and Composer Ben Collins; and Art Director and Stylist Caitri Jones. Hats off to Production Manager Michael Maclean, Stage Manager Clare Testoni and ASM Kristie Smith for their steely resolve.
Though, it is co-creator, performer and director, Tim Watts who, I suspect, has his fingerprints all over this production. He has diligently and painstakingly created a seamless feat of performance making, raising the bar so high that it will be difficult to match. Watts’ ability, with the assistance of Anthony Watts, to bring technical expertise to a production that expands the capacity and possibilities of what can be achieved, yet enhances its depth and humanity, is truly a remarkable gift of artistry.
Co-creators and performers, Adrianne Daff, Arielle Gray and Chris Isaacs have made invaluable contributions to Watts’ vision with incredible performances and in sharing the formal and technical challenges of the production. Likewise, performers Gita Bezard, Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Jo Morris are delightful in their roles.
For those who will miss this sold out season at PICA, I hope that The Last Great Hunt is able to bring this production back to Perth after, what I’m sure will become an addition to the international festival touring circuit.
“Lé Nør” is showing at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts until Sunday 24 February 2019.
pic credits: Toni Wilkinson