Battery Opera: Reptile-Diva Nov 16-20, 2004

Reptile-Diva runs Nov 16-20, Roundhouse Community Centre in Vancouver. www.batteryopera.com

Battery Opera opened their new show Reptile-Diva last night at the Roundhouse in Vancouver.  It was exciting and surprising… as I anticipatingly awaited each next word or move by Battery Opera founders and performers Lee Su-Feh and David MacIntosh.

Reptile-Diva blends dance, martial arts, song and performance art all together in a highly entertaining and provocative performance that is actually a compilation show that re-configures 3 different earlier works: A Character (1992), Brick (1996) and Domestik (1999). 

This unique combination is self-described as “two characters journey through cultural debris and construction materials, looking for love, losing their skins…” and creates a scenario that also incorporates and utilizes autobiographical intrigue about this unique husband-and-wife team that claims to have met in 1985 when McIntosh was riding a bicycle in Kota Baru and was hit by a car, and Su-Feh found him in the street bleeding.

But everything about Battery Opera seems to be like that.  It hits hard like a car… or in McIntosh's solo piece, a brick… or as in Su-Feh's solo piece, it bleeds… literally with pain and red paint as she splatters a brush on a large sheet of paper.

The shock that anything could happen, or that anything could be said is like a distillation of Life, or in this case their lives, as they recount stories from their past experience.  They tease them out, drawing on the familiar that everybody can relate to somewhere at sometime, juxtaposing cultural references seemingly at odds with itself, then transformed into a new context.  Everything is relative and everything depends on perception.  McIntosh and Su-Feh shift the sands of perception and art and ask the audience to see and listen in new ways.  You can almost hear the audience go “Aha!” or “Oh…” or “What the hell?” as one tries to make sense of the performance.  Okay… maybe it was just me not having seen experimental dance/theatre for awhile, as this was the first time I witnessed Battery Opera live in performance.  But this was exciting!

A Character opened the show and alternated in with Brick, each divided into 3 sections.  Su-Feh steps out in an Asian martial arts-like costume, performing an exercise with a sword.  A sexy red beaded dress hangs suspended and captures her attention.  Thus begins a tale and dance of seduction, perception and identity.

Brick challenges the concept of work, based on McIntosh's own experience in the construction industry. Three monologues each provoke the audience about the qualities and perception of work. 

Domestik was presented after the intermission, Su-Feh describes it as “some kind of ode to living 19 years with the same man.” In this piece, Su-Feh starts by sweeping the floor with an Asian style broom, while McIntosh works out with a punching bag.  A dialogue of movement and sound begins, transitioning into a domestic dispute that most of the audience could relate to in their own lives as confirmed by the knowing laughter.  Echoes of the earlier pieces seemed to appear, as Su-Feh performs martial arts moves with the broom.

How does one truly write a review of Battery Opera? I can only say, it has to be seen to be believed.  Entertaining and memorable, Battery Opera creates a dynamic tension between performers, between audience and actors, between concepts and ideas.  Definitely something to encourage your friends to see.

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