Chalk About

An intimate, thought-provoking dance show for children that's far from black-and-white

★★★★
kids review | Read in About 2 minutes
Published 13 Aug 2014

Self-identity is a thorny issue at any age, and for the older children that this show is aimed at, it can be practically all-consuming. Through a series of dance sequences punctuated by confessional monologues, Christien Devaney and Hendrik Lebon capture the hesitancy we have when attempting to define ourselves throughout our lives.

The dancers work against a stark black background, on which they chalk the outlines of some brave young volunteers as the audience arrive. White balloons and paper figures are the only other props in a visually impressive show that’s far from black-and-white in the way it treats its themes.

Some dance sequences start and then stop when the performers admit that they don’t know where they are going.  They sketch out what the show might have looked like had they taken all the suggestions of their target audience: the resulting chaos of dinosaurs, rock bands, cute baby pandas, NO PUPPETRY and lots and lots of blood is very funny and helps to set the playful tone.

When Devaney describes her life to us in speech and mime, Lebon follows her, sometimes mirroring, sometimes contradicting her actions, as if she is being stalked by the ghosts of past selves. Lebon instead asks for the audience to define him, asking whether he looks Russian or German, 26 or 37 years old, making himself bravely and beguilingly vulnerable. One sequence seems to portray the moments of physical intensity that punctuate and give shape to our lives—swimming, firing a machine gun, prostrating oneself in prayer—then gives way to seemingly post-coital intimacy between the pair, suggesting that this was all symbolic of the violent intimacy of sex.

Such moments of dual meaning punctuate the show. This allows it to be admirably unsqueamish about the important aspects of life that are less child-friendly, but also non-literal enough that the show never pushes its "PG" certificate too far.

More importantly, it suggests a mutability that is central to the theme. However boldly we chalk out our outlines, they remain as subject to rubbings out and redefinitions as figures on a chalk board.