Bat Lake

Form Dance Projects. Choreographer: Eliza Cooper. Riverside Theatres. 13 -15 October, 202

Reviewed : October 13, 2022*

“The rustle of leaves, the bustle of busy creatures … A cloud of bats, flickering at dusk …”.

Photo : Dom O’Donnell

Eliza Cooper writes lyrically of the ‘flashes and fleeting visions” that inspired this intricate and delicately evocative performance where dancers whisper and drift across the dimly lit stage in flurries and flashes of lithe limbs and drifting lacy fabric that embody the tiny mammals that have intrigued humankind, from Aristotle (“For as the eyes of bats are to the blaze of day, so is the reason in our soul to the things which are by nature most evident of all.”) to composer Claude Debussy (“The colour of my soul is iron-grey and sad bats wheel about the steeple of my dreams”).

Photo : Dom O’Donnell

Unlike Debussy, the bats Cooper has created are not sad. They are alert, aware sensitive to each other and the air and sounds that surround them. They either hang, suspended by tight toes, waiting out the daylight in dark corners, or “flicker at dusk” trembling awake to fly to dark haunts and hunt sleepy insects deep inside “blooming cactus flowers” shining silver in the moonlight.

Seven dancers – Maxine Carlisle, Mitchell Christie, Allie Graham, Jasmin Luna, Cassidy McDermott-Smith, Remy Rochester and Strickland Young – in dark, wispy, translucent costumes depict these strange nocturnal animals. Twitching fingers depict their complex senses; tightly bent arms suggest their elastic wings. In agile leaps and light, nimble steps they ‘fly’ through the night sky, reaching to each other at times, swirling alone at others, hunting, catching, consuming greedily.

Photo : Dom O’Donnell

Cooper’s choreography is studied and perceptive, finding the multifaceted complexity of the creatures that have been “tumbling acrobatically” in her in dreams over three years. Her vision is enhanced by collaboration with creative sound designer Mason Peronchik, whose blend of cheeky, chattering bat voices and flighty, whimsical music captures both the whimsy of these creatures and the mythological wariness of them created by writers like Bram Stoker in Dracula.

Cooper’s vision extends to costume design and, with John Cooper, the creation of the large, silver lotus blossoms and moon, surreptitiously moved across the stage by Niki Verral, Isabel Estrella and Madeleine Bracken.

This is a stunning piece of theatre. It’s creative, imaginative, sensitive. What a pity it plays for such a short time!

Also published in Stage Whispers magazine.

*Opening performance