Arts Review: SDS1 - Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA), Perth (On Tour through October)

‘The Beautiful Game’ is a well worn cliché that is off trotted out when talking about football. It seems to be the best you need to not only have tactical know how; but also have some fleet and fancy footwork and an array of tricks to outwit the opposing team’s defenders – I’m thinking your Christiano Ronaldos and your Lionel Messis. It is from this that former professional footballer and performance artists Ahilan Ratnamohan’s derived his piece SDS1, or so I thought.

I had high hopes going in to SDS1; and a certain degree of unrealistic expectations perhaps. I think in my head I was expecting a dance inspired piece exploring football to involve more fancy footwork and trickery with the ball. So ultimately I left feeling a bit disappointed; and based on a handful of conversations I overheard in the bar I wasn’t alone in thinking that. I think the assumption by some, myself included, was that there was going to be more footwork and skills or tricks on display.

Despite my relative disappointment, I didn’t think the performance was all that bad. There were plenty of elements I did enjoy; the “set” for example; its concrete floors and the glow from green lamps giving it a street football feel. I also liked the repetition of movements, some of which were familiar sights. I liked the gradual building of tempo. You definitely as an audience member got the impression of a match progressing. This progression highlighted not only by Ratnamohan’s perspiration and breathlessness but also the symbolic and almost ritualistic moments where he would apply strapping; both to his foot and then later to this shoulder/upper torso.

There were elements of the performance that were quite uncomfortable to watch as well; and I imagine for the audience members that had Ratnamohan’s sweaty face pushed against theirs, uncomfortable to be part of too. I’m still not too sure what this was supposed to symbolise – perhaps this was ‘visceral’ element of the performance. We also got the chance to get quite hands on in the end; getting to take part in our very own pitch invasion; hoisting Ratnamohan into the air; and manoeuvring him around the crowd. Again I’m not sure if there was any great significance to this; other than to maybe try to capture the euphoria of the end of a game; but it was kind of lost on me.

Ultimately I found SDS1 to be largely enjoyable, good but not great. If anything it’s a bit of a lesson to me not to go into things with preconceived notions. The problem is I’ve seen fancier footwork and ball handling skills in the middle of high profile matches; in the controlled environment of a studio I was expecting to be wowed and it just never really happened. All in all it was an interesting piece, but one that feel shot of the mark for me.


SDS1 is being performed at Mandurah Performing Arts Centre from September 29th until October 1st, before travelling to the Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre, Bathurst from the 20th to the 22nd October.

The reviewer attended the performance on Wednesday 23rd September at Perth Insitute of Contemporary Arts.