|Premiere||20 July 1996|
|Venue||Randall Theatre, St. Martin’s Theatre, South Yarra, Victoria|
DANTE…THROUGH THE INVISIBLE was a visual interpretation of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy.
With its richness of imagery and universal themes, this classic text captured the imagination of Handspan when it was proposed to the company by Carmelina Di Guglielmo who was keen to continue to work with material that reflected her Italian heritage.
The work was originally proposed to be a co-production between Handspan Theatre and the Melbourne Theatre Company, following the companies’ partnership for Gulliver's Travels in 1992. The play's storyboard evolved from creative development workshops held in 1994 with a collaborative creative team from both organisations. However, the Melbourne Theatre Company withdrew from the production in 1995.
DANTE was designed and directed by Handspan’s artistic director, Ken Evans, and created by the company ensemble for performance entirely through visual images, animated to David Chisholm’s soundtrack. It followed the style of Secrets and several of Handspan’s Vignettes. Unlike those productions though, Dante followed a narrative line – that of the original poetic saga imagined in a contemporary context. Snippets of Aligheri’s original text were heard in a contemporary music and effect-based 'eerie score'1 .
Lizz Talbot summarised its approach in her introduction to the play’s synopsis2:
Joe, or Dante, the central figure in the production was a soldier, found in a jungle battlefield confronting in his inner self and embarking on a spiritual odyssey through the underworld. The play followed his 'ghastly journey',3 an 'out-of-control hell ride'4 through Inferno and Purgatory to Paradise. Puppetry and animated imagery on stage visualised Dante’s subconscious in a powerful and confronting lighting design by Philip Lethlean that enveloped the work in Dante’s personal dark night of the soul.
Key figures were highlighted in the darkness, making use of ‘lights on sticks’5. These miniaturised lighting sources were used a puppets themselves, manipulated in concert with looming images conjured from Joe’s imaginings: bestial, phallic and ghostly, they forced Dante into torture and extremis.
DANTE was an ambitious and experimental venture for Handspan. Its dramatic and complex imagery was stunning, but proved to overpower the drama of the production, particularly for audiences unfamiliar with The Divine Comedy.
Or for those who knew it well enough to have decided views on the classic’s interpretation:
DANTE was Ken Evans’ last production with Handspan. By the end of the play’s first season, a new artistic director, David Bell had been appointed to the company and any future evolution of the project was shelved.
- Dina Ross Review, Herald Sun, Melbourne,1996
- Lizz Talbot Dante Research Report 1995
- Michael Veitch Review, The Age
- John Ashton Review, Publication unknown, Melbourne, 1996
- LOS – lights on sticks, developed by Philip Lethlean and used by Handspan artists in many productions since
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|Devised by||Carmelina Di Guglielmo, Ken Evans, Mac Gudgeon, Lizz Talbot.|
|Director & designer||Ken Evans|
|Dramaturgical assistance||John Romeril|
|Lighting designer||Philip Lethlean|
|Sound design||Peter Jago|
|Creative development||Cliff Dolliver ,Wayne McCauley, Hugh Wayland, Tom Consadine,|
|Melanie Beddie, Andrew Hansen, Michele Spooner, Avril McQueen|
|Puppeteer||Carmelina Di Guglielmo|
|Production manager||Paul Judd|
|Stage manager||Marnie Mc Donald|
|Construction supervisor||David Hope|
|Set/Puppet construction||Katrina Gaskell, Craig Hedger, Rob Matson, Michele Spooner,|
|Consultant aerialist||Simon Mitchell|
|Consultant pyrotechnician||Aaron Beacaire|
|Graphic design||Jenkins Hall Advertising Pty Ltd|
|20 July – 3 August||Randall Theatre, St Martin’s Theatre, South Yarra, Victoria|
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