Part installation, part participatory performance; an evocative and meditative exploration of acquiescence and connection.
Image credit: Bernie Ng
A fusion of dance and physical theatre, art installation and bondage culture, Bunny is a fascinating, sometimes confronting work performed at a meditative pace over two hours. Commissioned by Campbelltown Arts Centre, its short Melbourne season was presented by Arts House as part of the inaugural Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Arts.
The title of the piece is a bondage term: the person who is restrained is the ‘bunny’, the person doing the tying up is the ‘rigger’. Across the duration of the piece audience members become part of the performance in a gentle, publicly negotiated exploration of consent and restraint which sees them tied up, tied down, and even suspended in mid-air.
Moments of levity – a tenderly surreal struggle with a vacuum cleaner, an explosive embrace with a fire extinguisher – and a frenetic dance sequence counterpoint the work’s quieter moments, while throughout the work the artists are at pains to ensure, through verbal and non-verbal communication, that participating audience members feel comfortable and supported, not exploited or coerced.
Created and performed by Singapore-born Daniel Kok (a visual artist turned pole dancer and performer) and Australian Luke George (who has danced for the likes of Philip Adams BalletLab and Chunky Move, among others), Bunny begins exquisitely slowly, requiring one to surrender to its contemplative pace. As we enter the performance space and take our seats around the four sides of the stage (able at every moment to watch the faces of our fellow participants and study their responses to the performance as well as viewing the work itself), we watch Kok tied up in an intricate system of knots, suspended in the air and spun in circles like a living mobile. His slowly spinning body is initially turned by George, who soon sits down to observe.
‘Keep him spinning,’ is George’s request to the audience, and tension noticeably builds as the oscillations of Kok’s rotating body begin to slow. Will he come to a halt? Will someone rise from their seat, enter the performance and keep him spinning?
These moments of tension and release are echoed throughout Bunny, counterpointed by musical selections which range from the endearingly daggy to explosive rock songs. Lighting too is used to tremendous effect, highlighting the vivid colours of ropes and the shift and toss of limbs and cords.
As the work unfolds, and more audience members are recruited into the performance, we see a man led about on a leash; a woman tied to the cushions she rests upon; another woman tied to her chair, with a nearby stranger roped in (metaphorically) to ensure she can sip from her drink when required. These points of connection – manifested in ropes and restraints tied with an air of ritual and reverence – ensure that Bunny highlights something all too rare in the theatre: an embodied sense of engagement and community. Not only does the work make us part of the performance; it emphasises our shared involvement, transforming onlookers to performers, regardless of whether we are tied up on stage or watching on enthralled.
Bunny is an intimate exploration of trust and acquiescence, artistry and sensuality, queerness and play; a thrilling, exquisite and compelling start to the inaugural Asia TOPA.
4 ½ stars out of 5
Created & Performed by Daniel Kok & Luke George
Lighting Design: Matthew Adey/House of Vnholy
Dramaturgy: Fu Kuen Tang
Commissioned by Campbelltown Arts Centre
Presented by Asia TOPA Arts House season
The Meat Market, North Melbourne
2-5 February 2017
January – April 2017