Steps in dark play tricks on perception

Dark Matter dancer Leah Carrell outside Allen Hall Theatre. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
Dark Matter dancer Leah Carrell outside Allen Hall Theatre. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
Dancer Leah Carrell has developed tactics to get through Dark Matter without incident.

One is counting her steps while dancing.

Another is to be very aware of where all parts of the stage are.

``We have to activate all our senses.''

The reason for the special care is that Dark Matter, as its name implies, is done in extremely low lighting.

The man behind the dance performance, professional practice fellow in theatre studies at Otago University and theatre manager of the university's Allen Hall Theatre Martyn Roberts said the low light was an important part of the piece.

``It's about light, and how we perceive light, and how light can play with a sense of space and even time.''

The award-winning lighting designer said the show used light in a ``very, very dark environment to create a deliberate shift in our senses''.

What was unique to the production was it was not about what you could see, but what you thought you could see.

That ``completely'' brought the minds of the audience members into play as they watched.

``I think everybody will come away having taken an inner journey as well as a journey of viewing.

``They will certainly come away having experienced a phenomenon in a way that they probably haven't before.''

People had told him they had seen nothing like it.

Reactions included people who had a feeling of being suspended, of being in a prolonged meditation, or being taken on a journey.

Mr Roberts said the show was first performed in 2016 at the Dunedin Fringe Festival, before showing in Wellington at the NZ Fringe Festival last year, where it won the Best of Fringe award.

``We brought it back to Dunedin for audiences here who had heard about it and wanted to see it.''

He hoped to be able to take it overseas, though that plan was ``in development; watch this space''.

Despite the darkness on stage, Carrell said performing Dark Matter was fun.

``It's really fun, it's spooky, it's challenging.

``I really enjoy the way we are in another world.''


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