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Theatre Review: Caligula - The Judith Wright Centre, Brisbane (Performances Through July 12th)

Danger Ensemble has tight-roped the line of art and massacre once again in this bizarre and sometimes startling portrayal of Caligula. It’s hard to draw a line in the sand with these guys. At times there is a beautiful and stunning quality to the ensembles’ movements. These performers have demonstrated choreography and expression at its finest.

The costumes are equally dazzling, when Jesus Christ (yes, that’s right Jesus makes a cameo appearance in the show) comes on stage to sing “God Is In The House” the crown of blades Jesus wears is eye-catching to say the least if not even more dazzling than Jesus’s breasts.

But that’s just the thing. Nudity, crass language and gender-bending themes are no longer challenging. Controversial theatre isn’t controversial anymore. Not only that, but it’s no longer substantial. The typical theatre-goer is a black space. They simply consume, consume, consume. Like a black hole we gorge on abstract images and incredible performances and then once it has been indulged demand bigger and better. Shock theatre like Caligula may be something delectable to consume but it’s no longer sufficient. Spouting jokes about fisting just doesn’t pack a punch anymore, excuse the pun. Sure many of the audience chortle and cackle but it simply no longer inspires us.

Caligula is, in a lot of ways, disappointing because of this necessity for crass absurdity. The opening sequence holds so much promise. When we are first seated I have never witnessed a more majestic introduction to a show. The suspense and awe really does the man Caligula justice.

This isn’t to say it’s all downhill from the beginning. There are some incredible, choreographed sequences that play with masque theatre. The process of death represented by the movements and the mask are almost terrifying. All the individual elements; the performers’ skills in movement and song, the costumes, the lighting and use of space, are all superb. But the lack of narrative is very hard to endure at times.

In the end Danger Ensemble’s interpretation of Caligula is a show that stands on the precipice. At any moment it can hurtle it self over the edge into theatrical madness and sometimes it seems like it will crash and burn there in that swirling chaos. But time and time again it rights it self enough to show us there is some strong direction in its presentation. And that is at least worth going to see.

Caligula plays through to July 12. For more information head HERE