REVIEW: THE ASSEMBLY: Journey into Human Existence

Raghav Handa
's theatrical production, The Assembly - bastard of a place, premiered this week at the  Campbelltown Arts Centre in Sydney. The performance, offering a profound exploration of familial narratives and cultural legacies, indeed delivers on its promise. Collaborating with a distinguished ensemble of artists, including Victor Zarallo, Josh Freedman, James Brown, Fausto Brusamolino, Isabel Hudson, and Vicki Van Hout, Handa orchestrates a thought-provoking odyssey into the intricacies of human existence.

Set against a backdrop of surreal landscapes and dynamic movement, the performance easily transcends conventional paradigms of dance theatre. Staged within an intimate 80-seat auditorium, the piece establishes a palpable connection with the audience, inviting us into what initially appears as a biographical reflection of the artist's culturally and ethnically diverse existence. Commencing with an exploration of Handa's grandfather's regimental legacy, the production interlaces culture and themes of masculinity, confusion and acceptance, prompting audiences to contemplate power dynamics, mortality, and ethical considerations.

Of note, The Assembly travels via a nuanced narrative approach. Handa navigates profound societal inquiries through a physical embodiment of emotions, with muscular actions contrasted against moments of vulnerability, introspection, exploitation, and spirituality. The choreography and imagery are meticulously crafted, unraveling intricate personal and societal layers, fostering a profound reflection amongst those present.

The performance space itself serves as a canvas for artistic exploration, with Handa and his collaborators weaving intricate symbolism, imagery, and soundscapes. While foreground elements offer a stylised portrayal of real-life experiences, the backdrop action unveils a cinematic tapestry of symbolism, blurring the boundaries between the fictional and the tangible. Drawing inspiration from memory, psychology, and futuristic visions, the production engenders a sensory experience that is both captivating and intriguing.

Handa's dedication to cultural preservation and the transmission of traditional knowledge is evident throughout The Assembly. From poignant scenes evoking classical baroque aesthetics to acutely choreographed movements reminiscent of dance masterpieces, Handa's performance obviously respects heritage. The interplay of dynamics and pacing further underscores the thematic tension, raising moments of discomfort (and wonder) amongst the audience.

The cast fills the stage with a compelling presence, each embodying various stages of human experience, from comfort and victimisation to obsession and love. Handa's multifaceted expression unfolds with precision, leveraging his stagecraft alongside his fellow performers to articulate a rich tapestry of emotions and insights. 

As Handa says, The Assembly serves as a surreal amalgamation of personal history and contemporary reflections, urging viewers to approach it with an open mind and discern its essence as both art and a manifestation of sapient consciousness.

Limited tickets available for the remaining performances, making The Assembly a must-see for those seeking an exploration of diverse human conditions and mechanics.


Note The Assembly contains partial nudity, strobe lights and haze.

Reviewed from Row D seat 5.