Ceci n’est pas une critique

The rarest thing in this city, in November, is theatre as pure delight. Everything else is plentiful, as we rest our tired eyes from the assault of the festivals. The scramble for the last audience dollar before Christmas, the end-of-season cabaret, the last moments of satire with a big heart, all that rather vulgar stuff.

However, however, guess what I've just seen?

The VCA Graduation (and not so Graduation) Season is in full blow. VCA has become a force behind a large chunk of the best theatre Melbourne sees, a peculiar but welcome situation. The end-of-year shows, with their big production budgets, large casts of enthusiastic students, not to mention freedom from box-office responsibility that usually follows commercial commissions of similar scope, must be a real treat to the brilliant directors and choreographers that have been working on these productions in the past few years. In the past years, this approach has often resulted in gorgeous theatre which, despite the qualms some may have about reviewing semi-professional productions, should be advertised high and wide.

Transmutation, Season 1, is on until Saturday (15 November), at Gasworks, that fabulous venue nobody ever goes to. It features four short choreographic works, by Brett Daffy, Neil Adams, Phillip Adams and Anna Smith, created on the young bodies of Year 1&2 students. And it is marvelous. It strikes me, more than anything, as a beautifully curated production, with great sense of rhythm and composition. Daffy's opening piece, therefore, however pedestrian (although there are some beautiful moments in the few starting minutes), merely focuses the mind for the delicate beauty of Neil Adams's Traverse that follows, an exploration of rhythm and sequence, bodies and music. It has the fresh, unaffected charm of a meadow in summer. In contrast, Phillip Adams's Oliver Pink has been most accurately described by my partner-in-dance as 'primal parody', and I don't think anyone has ever pinned Phillip down better. The melodramatic force of Adams's work contrasts quite splendidly with the insectoid, feminine Attraction to Light, Anna Smith's closing piece, all dark and impersonal after the red socks, Sex Pistols and religious ectasy of Adams's work. Each one of these choreographed snippets was completely different, each one an immediate refreshment after the previous. In variation of tone, mood and colour, this was quite an unprecedented success.

I believe this was the most pleasant night I've had watching people on a stage in a long time.

It is on until Saturday. Do go.

Gasworks Arts Park, Cnr Graham and Pickles Streets, Albert Park.
8pm on Wed 12 to Sat 15 Nov 2008. 2pm on Sat 15 Nov 2008.
Bookings: 03 9699 3253.