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Reviewed by The Liberal Agenda for, 26 May 2013

Right, wow. Where to begin. So, on Thursday I saw Like This, Like Us. It’s a new piece by Salted:Singlet, choreographed by Oliver Connew. I saw Oliver’s first full-length choreographic piece An Unfortunate Willingness to Agree at The Auckland Fringe. I loved it and raved about it at length. I was really excited to see what he’d come up with this time.

Like This, Like Us was different to An Unfortunate Willingness to Agree in a lot of respects; it was slower generally and felt more deliberate. It was more of a journey. I was pleased to see though that it was just as intelligent and thought-provoking as An Unfortunate Willingness to Agree. I was also please to see that it’s the first of a triptych, so there is more to come!

The show is ‘Inspired by the dynamics of a friendship, two humanoids explore the rabid cult of individualism in a plastic-wrapped, ready-to-use world where the contemplations of science-fiction have invaded reality and supplanted the need for commonality.’ Phwoar.

Plastic. Everything is plastic. We are given plastic ponchos, to wear. We all look the same, though some are orange and some are blue. The two dancers are gladwrapped head to toe when we enter. Plastic boxes are stacked at the back of the stage which is divided by a clear sheet of plastic stretched over a frame running lengthwise down the stage. The frame splits the stage so that the dancers start off separated. The performance starts with them slowly extracting themselves from their plastic cocoons. It’s like watching something being birthed. Once free, the slowly explore the space and their bodies.

It’s fascinating to watch. It’s like witnessing someone learning to use and adult human body with no guidance. The movements are bizarre and unnatural but brilliant to watch. They develop differently and then they begin undertaking mundane tasks, getting dressed or making tea/toast. They are performing essentially the same tasks but in a slightly different order, or in a different manner. And the effect is really quite profound.

As with An Unfortunate Willingness To Agree everyday items are used to great effect. Gladwrap, large plastic bags, painting overalls. The mundane becomes fascinating and beautiful.

Intelligent, complex and fascinating to watch. Keep an eye out for more from this exciting new choreographer.


LIKE smaller

Georgie Goater and Oliver Connew are friends, good friends. Yet, their personalities are almost diametrically opposed. To Oliver, Georgie is absurd. To Georgie, Oliver is ridiculous.

This is the starting point for Like This, Like Us, the first in a planned triptych of new duets from award-winning choreographer (Best in Dance, NZ Fringe Festival 2012), Oliver Connew. Initially inspired by the dynamics of a friendship, two humanoids explore the rabid cult of individualism in a plastic-wrapped, ready-to-use world where the contemplations of science-fiction have invaded reality and supplanted the need for commonality. Like This, Like Us treads the first steps of a hypothetical path into our future.

Together with new music from accomplished musician Alfredo Ibarra, innovative lighting design by Amber Molloy and stage design by Valentina Serebrennikova, the alien-like physicalities of these performers take, as a reviewer has said of a previous work, a further ‘leap across the yawning chasm of the landscape of “self” that has preoccupied a whole generation of choreographers before…’ [Jenny Stevenson, Theatreview] and instead address issues of a new generation.

Over a short period of a few years, all of my immediate family, including myself have packed up belongings, newly produced children, and fled my hometown, Wellington. The dozen or so of us are now globally scattered: Berlin, London, Santiago, Sydney, Auckland, Ongaonga. So, at times of significance, such as birthdays, weddings and Christmas, technology is called upon to tether a connection for a few short moments. Everybody knows this technology offers less than a satisfactory substitute for close, corporeal contact; everybody knows it’s a compromise.

This work directly addresses my not uncommon personal experience, and how it relates to current sociopolitical environments. With  encouragement from movements such as the Arab Spring, Occupy, the plight of Pussy Riot and even the Tea Party, communities as well as individuals are questioning fundamentals of our societies, where we are headed, and questioning, too, a previous unfortunate willingness to agree. I believe that my personal experience is an epitomisation of the type of compromise that people have begun to rail against.

It has been a year since this work’s original conception. Initially concerned that it may have lost some of its original vigour and poignancy after a perceived lull in overt political retaliation in 2012, over the course of its second development I have been able to see that the themes of An Unfortunate Willingness to Agree persist to be current and relevant.

Unashamedly from a young person’s perspective,  this work ultimately speaks of our desire for something much more human and honest.

Oliver Connew / February 2013

Jenny Stevenson for
21 Feb 2013


How refreshing to see the work of an emerging choreographer, fresh out of dance school, make the leap across the yawning chasm of the landscape of “self” that has pre-occupied a whole generation of young choreographers before him.

Instead, the director/choreographer of An Unfortunate Willingness to Agree, Oliver Connew, has taken his own personal experience of the global dispersing of his family unit and has deftly woven it into the political milieu of the times – traversing the graphic images that have accompanied the Arab Spring uprisings, the moral stance taken by the Occupy movement, the subversive protest of Pussy Riot and the corrosive politics of extreme conservatism.

He and his two collaborators, dancers Zara Killeen-Chance and Gareth Okan use their highly-trained bodies not to present a bravura display of dance, but as a conduit for energy and its transmission between themselves – through a spare vocabulary of movement.  Connew sets out to call into question society’s passive acquiescence and the all-embracing world of technology that can let people stand back and not get involved in, what should by rights, deeply affect them.

Set against the background of a live Al Jazeera broadcast replete with talking heads and destruction in equal measure, the dancers begin as automatons – emerging from the audience and gravitating in stiff-gaited steps, towards technology – represented by the television – techno-energy informing their every movement.

The dance progresses through an orgy of newspaper-induced frenzy before Connew makes a live-Skype connection in a place of dimmed-down lighting and no movement.  Instead the audience unwittingly conspires in super-imposing the chirpy and disembodied voices emitting from the halting Skype conversation onto the flickering images of the people on the television screen – who are earnestly discussing the controversies of the day.

The two male dancers perform, connected by an umbilical cord of computer wire – that would appear to enable them to transmit energy “down the line” towards each other.  Gradually the work reaches a point of resolution, as Killeen-Chance and Okan embrace in a clinch and perform a slo-mo dance of connection until the television is finally turned off.

The music of Marika Pratley and the lighting design of Amber Molloy are effective elements in this brief sojourn into what Connew describes as “a young person’s perspective” and a “desire for something much more human and honest”.




‘Innovation is overrated’

Grayson Perry

A valued response to Globus Cruciger from Val Smith via Facebook…

oliver, loved your work last night, very clever, it continues to unfold in my mind, the complexity of meaning. i think it very effectively dealt with the issue of colonialism. i wondered about having what appeared to be a ‘middle class white girl’ in the ‘native chorus’ crew. but it seems to make sense to me now. loved those trees uprooted. and the casting was great. the subverted footwork taken from kapa haka. very well considered and refinedgood on you, see you round, valVal! Thanks very much. That’s really great feedback. When I noticed that I had chosen a cast so clearly ethnically diverse I realised that I probably wouldn’t be able to control how the audience might read into a brown male dancing with a white female. Skin colour (unfortunately) became a tricky negotiation. But the necessity of that negotiation says things in itself i think..

Thanks again! Glad you got something from it! smile

I paid this yesterday and I feel a bit of a fraud for doing so. Long story short, as is usual with parking tickets, it wasn’t my fault (as in it wasn’t me who put it in an illegal position, it was the mechanic that did) and I shouldn’t have to pay it. I sent a letter ages ago explaining and this was the only reply. To protest further sounded like more than $200 worth of effort and stress, so I rationalised and I paid it. Rationalism, the status quo relies on it. Too much money, effort and stress to serve justice. It is a familiar notion. In this country we are innocent until proven guilty. But we have to pay (significant amounts) to prove ourselves innocent, which seems to me more like ‘guilty until you can pay to prove yourself innocent’. Surely the crown should foot the bill (as well as stress and effort) for all costs until someone is proven guilty, thence the crim can pay. If innocent, then the bill (and stress and effort) should remain with the crown.

If you look at the gamut of a generation’s art, you will see clear representative themes. In recent generations, amongst the critically successful western art, I see apathy and comfort and a general celebration of our success as a system. That being, that we have acquired so much individual freedom that there is nothing to be done. You could argue that this is a known and recognised celebration among artists of ‘goal achieved’. But for some reason or another, I doubt it. I don’t reckon that we believe that there is nothing to be done. So I wonder then where this sense of comfort stems from. As such (perceived) individuals now, perhaps we feel no obligation to engage and interact with people, issues and questions we don’t like; ‘Don’t like our world? Don’t participate.’ seems to be the attitude. So I feel kind of guilty and terribly out of fashion for wanting to. Am I breaking a rule by not wanting to wholly remove myself from my world?

I visit galleries, trawl the internet, watch on youtube and a lot of the art I see, that I am supposed to appreciate, looks like crap to me, which is where I run the of risk of sounding like Mitt Romney and co. (But, I don’t think I’m playing dumb, though one can never know.) It has been made unfashionable for art to have intention or to make a point. Art that wishes to influence thought patterns, grapple with opinions, shift outlooks, among certain minds, verges on the unethical, classed as propaganda, which nazism, communism and McCarthyism, quite rightly, made awfully unpopular. But this is not an accurate assessment. One can look at Ai Wei Wei. Despite the strongly political tones to his work, it can’t be said that it is propaganda. His art is made autonomously, as an individual, and not to serve someone else’s purpose.

I think art that allows itself to have purpose (no, not serve a purpose), pose questions or even provide answers, not necessarily as statements of fact or certainty, but maybe just as a stab in the dark, has more proverbial balls than its counterparts. It is brave to engage in a discussion with an audience that will most likely tell you you that you are wrong. Art should take an interest and participate in the world it exists, even if from afar. Otherwise, it is pretentious and assumes its own importance. It appears to me that much art, so inflated with irony, is out to mock its audience, to make fools of them: an unhelpful and unsustainable way to communicate. Artists should encourage equality through the pursuit and promotion of understanding, hopefully resulting in art that holds at least some vestiges of humanness.

Usually, I can’t be bothered getting to know you.


Under normal circumstances, I can not be bothered to get to know you.


Under normal circumstances, I can not bother to know you.


Under normal circumstances, I can not bother you to know.