Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

Happy as Larry

Shaun Parker Dance Company
The Lowry, Salford
18 October 2011 to 19 October 2011

Here was strictly fun dancing from the other side of the world.

The first-ever UK visit by one of Australia’s foremost choreographers was a performance of his award-winning work wrapped around what makes us happy.

While the interpretation is not always so clear-cut, there was no doubting the uplifting exuberance of the performance.

Seldom has 75 minutes of contemporary dance provided such laugh-out-loud fun.

Shaun Parker has used the Enneagram as his starting point – a psychological system that maps us all into nine personality types.

That makes us a perfectionist, seducer, performer, tragic romantic, observer, devil’s advocate, optimist, boss, or mediator.

Choosing who’s who amongst the nine performers here is not so straight-forward, especially since there can be a little of each of those types within every personality.

So it’s how we interact and interpret each other that drives the narrative of the dance.

Happy as Larry is performed before a wide black monolith around which the dancers perform their own movement and space odyssey.

The backdrop also becomes a graffiti wall, or at times spins wildly around its axis, sweeping its performers about the stage.

Ultimately it becomes the biggest beatbox on the planet for the pulsating finale.

Amidst a mix of ballet, roller-skating, contemporary dance and break-dance, each of the cast builds up a unique expression for their character.

Apparently random movements from individuals blend subtly into specific group dances.

The whole thing is powered along by an electro-acoustic score from fellow Aussies Nick Wales and Bree van Reyk. Like the dance characters it is slyly constructed to produce a range of interweaving music styles.

The whole performance is one of those you would want to bottle, and then uncork for audiences everywhere, such is its international appeal.

As it is we have again to thank the Dance Touring Partnership, of which the Lowry is a member, for serving up such a special event.

Reviewer: David Upton