HardQueer DeathPony - An orgy of myths and rituals
Feb01

HardQueer DeathPony - An orgy of myths and rituals

CREATED ON // Wednesday, 01 February 2017 Author // Stephen A. Russell

Stephen A Russell speaks with choreographer and performer Cam McLachlan about multiple realities in his work, HardQueer DeathPony.

 

When the great wooden horse rolled into Troy, as some magnanimous gift of public sculpture, little did the citizens of that ill-fated city realise what was about to be unleashed upon them in their sleep.

While Midsumma Festival premier event HardQueer DeathPony, presented by Phillip Adams BalletLab, does not draw on that ancient Greek myth, the idea of multiple realities contained within one being is encapsulated within the queer dance performance that interrogates gender binary constructs.

Choreographed and performed by Cam McLachlan, who identifies as non-binary trans femme and uses the pronouns they, them and their, alongside fellow non-binary dancer Milo Hyde, the almost naked pair don horse heads and writhe together in an orgiastic, ritualistic and hypnotic movement. The confronting work is accompanied by a strange aural fusion of super-slow death metal, computer game soundtracks and ABBA, creating a churning white noise.

“One of the main things we’re exploring is simultaneous contradiction existing in the same place at the one time,” McLachlan says. “Visually it looks full on, but me and Milo counter that by doing all of those things really casually, like we were almost drowning and suffocating each other at one point, but we were doing it like we were just sitting on the couch, having a drink.”

This dissonance folds in several layers of subliminal meaning. “There are these expectations of being assigned male at birth and of course, because we’re gender queer, all of that comes into the work as well, trying to negotiate these simultaneously contradictory feelings within our bodies,” McLachlan adds.

The horse heads in particular signal their interesting take on the arbitrary identity labels enforced on us by society and those that we place on ourselves.

“They’re supposed to be a be poking a bit of fun at animalism and the idea of humans as animals, because personally I think humans are much more cyborg and I don’t think that we’re animals anymore,” they say. “Animals don’t have all the labels that we have, so just by having them, we are incapable of being animals, because we have all this other added stuff on top which makes us something other, which is closer to a cyborg.”

Originally envisioned as an expansive solo work during VCA graduate McLachlan’s residency at Performance Space last year, McLachlan was joined by Milo for the 30-minute rendition staged at the 2016 Melbourne Fringe Festival. It went on to win the Temperance Hall Award, supported by Phillip Adams BalletLab. Part of that prize sees them thrashing out a one-hour iteration for Midsumma.

McLachlan relishes the years of experience offered by Adams’ unique insights. “Working with Philip is a pretty amazing opportunity because it means we have access to his incredible knowledge of queer and arts history, rather than having to get it through YouTube videos,” McLachlan says. “It makes a pretty big difference to have a conversation with someone who’s actually been around for these things.”

With the work expanding again to one hour, there’s some discussion of it becoming two counter-balanced pieces as they thrash out the details during intense rehearsals. “Me and Milo actively focus on bringing things in and out of the centre of the circle continuously, expanding and compressing them,” McLachlan says.  

There’s an admirable sense of independent spirit to the staging too, with McLachlan and Hyde fully hands on, building the HardQueer DeathPony set themselves, with the help of some industrial lighting from Bunnings. “I think it’s important, with the statements that we’re making, that we create our own space,” McLachlan says. “We generate our own platform to have this conversation in, so that we can make it by our own rules.”

They are quite happy for that conversation to spill out into the foyer after the show, even if the feedback isn’t always positive. “I heard from our tech guy that it was one of the most divisive shows at Fringe.” McLachlan laughs.

“People would be arguing at the box office about whether it was really shit or really good, which made me happy. We even got one walk out, which was nice. As long as they have some kind of strong reaction. I make work to be seen and to have people think.”

HardQueer DeathPony, January 31 – February 5, Temperance Hall
199 Napier St, South Melbourne, midsumma.org.au

(Top image Cam McLachlan and Milo Hyde in HardQueer DeathPony. Image supplied.)

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Stephen A. Russell

Stephen A. Russell is a Melbourne based writer.

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