Energetic. Acrobatic and energetic.
It’s hard to scratch beyond the high-octane, borderline manic performances in Cut Snake. The three performers dance, sing, flip, contort, jump, and roll through the hour-long play and the story — what much of it there is — takes a backseat to the relentless activity, creating a fun, light, enjoyable experience.
Not having any sort of background in dance, and only passingly familiar with ballet, I sometimes wonder how critics engage with the material. Does it make sense to analyse the plot of, say, Swan Lake or are we more interested to see how it’s translated into dance? Cut Snake often feels like it’s moved out of the conventional theatre space and into fringe acrobatics. And watching it as an acrobatic performance, it’s really engaging. It’s dazzling. How does that guy manage to hold both women who are contorting around his body?
The ‘story’ involves three central characters. Jumper is a 19-year old backpacker who has died in a bus accident. Kiki is the girl that had a crush on him who wants to be some sort of burlesque dancer. And Bob is Jumper’s straight-edge, cerebral best friend. The play explores who the characters were prior to Jumper’s death, and then shows Kiki’s and Bob’s responses to the accident… while singing, jumping, rolling, and contorting.
What ties the play together is the secondary plot of Bob discovering time travel, allowing Bob and Kiki to have different reactions to Jumper’s death.
Time-travel plots are often about ‘fixing a mistake’, allowing us to imagine what life could have been like if only some terrible accident had been different. In Cut Snake, the key difference is that Jumper writes in a journal, allowing his surviving friends to appreciate life a little bit differently. Instead of having miserable lives, the few pages in the journal allows them to live more fulfilling lives. Or something.
It’s this point which sits most awkwardly in the play. Before the tampering with time, Kiki went on to be a burlesque dancer, met a bearded lady and establishes a lesbian relationship with her. The bearded lady decides to have a sex change operation, and Kiki ends up in what appears to be an abusive, unsatisfying relationship. Down the other trouser leg of time, Kiki realises that ‘something is not quite right’ about the bearded lady and discovers the joys of a heterosexual relationship. More strangely, the plot reduces Kiki’s life to the accidental tamperings of her male companions, even though one of them is deceased.
This is a performance where you go for the spectacle rather than the substance. Fortunately, the spectacle is amazing and worth the awkward politics.