Tallulah Holly-Massey is the 2018 Basement Artist in Residence and her second show, Mammoth, is a social investigation into not just the extinct animal itself — but an evolutionary commentary on hair.
This is appropriate, as not only did mammoths have multiple kinds of hair (outer guard hairs and then shorter inner hairs) but throughout evolution a single strand of hair — no matter, shape, texture, colour — has always been a means to communicate.
Holly-Massey brings us into this world with textured visuals, a memorable sound-design by Kristian Larsen, and her choreography, for the most part, treads delicately between the various guises through which we communicate.
The production begins with projected images of rich and luxuriant swaying tresses and proceeds to use these markers as non-verbal conversation starters. These are re-enacted in various groups where the social effects are explored.
Performers Arlo Gibson, Sione Fataua, Benjamin Mitchell and Ariaana Osborne are seamless in their transitions, each offering unique moments, that are mainly well-timed and engaging. Fataua’s skills with hair and the transformative effects he creates with his different styles is both light and humorous and successfully provoke notions of presentation, engagement and communication.
Holly-Massey also toys with the ideas of discomfort and awkwardness and her closing scenes stray between laughter and tears. This is the only time language comes into play and, unfortunately, between the slowly escalating sounds, the dynamics quiver in the middle rather than stretching into authenticity.
Mammoth works well as a series of inter-related thoughts, ideas and commentaries on our social processing and choices made for survival. Episodic with a stream of consciousness quality to its work the show ultimately, reflects a voyeuristic engagement, fascinated or otherwise, with who we are and all our different layers.