Performance review: KING, Sydney WorldPride

A music-dance collaboration that explores gender identity and sexuality.

Amid the whirlwind of events taking place during a fortnight of WorldPride is KING, a music-dance collaboration between award-winning choreographer Shaun Parker, internationally renowned vocalist Ivo Dimchev and an ensemble of outstanding dancers.

On the surface KING interrogates the power systems that oppress the natural development of sexuality and identity, but it does it with great heart and humour.

And it’s intriguing, exciting, sexy, funny and confronting – all in equal measure. Set against a literal jungle that evokes the metaphor of the modern world, the dancers de-volve throughout the show from the quintessential tuxedoed façade of modern gender restraint into the primitive emotion of the heart. And the audience joins this seductive emotional journey, their giggles of amusement turning to gasps of sorrow as the tale unfolds.  

The ensemble of diverse dancers brings an extraordinary passion and physicality to the very demanding choreography, often acrobatic, often robotic, often lyrical but always breathtakingly intricate. Hypnotising patterns mesmerise the audience, and it’s a tour de force both of creation and performance. 

As their learned behaviours are stripped back, quite literally, the movement language changes and the yearning of the soul finds new beauty as the individual rebels against the mob. The story may have been told before, but rarely so well within the athletic confines of patriarchy and the expectations of testosterone.

The music is hauntingly beautiful and the live performance by Dimchev integrates seamlessly into the dance. The ethereal almost elfin presence floats in and out of focus as required, Dimchev’s extraordinary range taking the vocals from an echoing mellow baritone to a soaring countertenor fragility that plucks the heartstrings with a wistful yearning. 

But it is Parker’s choreography, developed in collaboration with his extraordinary dancers, that anchors the piece. In the confidence of the physical execution, it is clear the individual skills and talents of these unique performers have been utilised in its creation, and this feeds the success of the work. Though the work is often led by Toby Derrick, each of these dancers nevertheless brings something special to the performance, their varied physicality contributing to the story in a different way. It is an extraordinary, flawless, integrated ensemble. 

Read: Theatre review: Choir Boy, National Theatre of Parramatta

It is a short season at the Seymour Centre for WorldPride before the work heads off overseas in the middle of the year to festivals across Europe. So get in quick to enjoy this unique and very satisfying collaboratively created movement and music experience! 

Seymour Centre, Sydney
Director: Shaun Parker
Composer and vocalist: Ivo Dimchev
Choreography: Shaun Parker in collaboration with the dancers
Lighting designer: Benjamin Brockman
Set designer: Penny Hunstead and Shaun Parker
Dancers: Toby Derrick, Joel Fenton, Libby Montilla, Samuel Beazley, Alex Warren, Imanuel Dado, Robert Tinning, Harrison Hall, Damian Meredith and Max Burgess.
Producer: Shaun Parker and Company

Tickets $39-$79

KING will be performed as Sydney WorldPride until 4 March 2023.

Dennis Clements is a NIDA Acting graduate and has a BA focused on Literature, Theatre and Journalism. He won the Theatre prize in his graduation year from Curtin University in WA. He has extensive leading role performance credits in both professional and community based companies, and has directed numerous productions for Bankstown Theatre Company and Ashfield Musical society. He is a registered Marriage Celebrant if you want to get hitched, and has also reviewed for Australian Stage online theatre magazine for several years.