Adelaide festivals: 7 Theatre Shows Pushing Boundaries

Festival time is a chance to experience new ways of creating performance

feature (adelaide) | Read in About 6 minutes
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The Second Woman
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Published 08 Feb 2019

Considering most of us watch a little too much television, what can theatre give us that is new, unexpected and transformational?Venturing into an experimental or boundary-pushing performance may be uncomfortable. It offers the chance to make the most of the live moment, and to appreciate the challenging intimacy of sharing space with both performers and audience. If you're up for more than just an hour long sit in the dark, there are lots of challenging new theatre pieces to find at the Fringe and Adelaide Festival. Take a chance on something innovative without ending up watching a man lay an egg or having milk spat on you.

For those willing to embrace new experiences, post's Ich Nibber Dibber promises to be an unusual show. Mish Grigor (The Talk), Natalie Rose and Zoë Coombs Marr (Bossy BottomDave) have the unerring ability to make their audience feel a little more human. Previously, post have made an impact with the irreverent Oedipus Schmoedipus. These are three performers who know each other a little too well, and are ready to call bullshit on what is expected of them. In Ich Nibber Dibber they make a bizarre ceremony out of excavating 10 years of their recorded conversations to look at how we make sense of the world, the strange phases we go through, and the milestones that change us. This is three young women reflecting on their lives in a frank and familiar way that refuses to edit out the weird un-ladylike shit. Ich Nibber Dibber promises something awkward and absurd, with a thread of sincerity.

Gavin Roach brings his second instalment of his Anxiety Trilogy this year with The Measure of a Man. Through a series of autobiographical vignettes, Roach endeavours to answer the question ‘How do we measure a man?’. Part drama and part comedy, Roach’s personal insecurities, shortcomings and intimate relations are thrown to the audience in a heart-wrenchingly beautiful monologue. Expect to come away from the experience with a new-found appreciation of the self-doubt which can plague the male mind. Body image, self-worth, and repressed sexuality are dragged to the fore, with a shimmering undertone of hope, glinting from within Roach’s somewhat murky experiences.

A poignant and ambitious story, Man with the Iron Neck by Legs on the Wall at Adelaide Festival tackles a visceral and confronting topic through a unique combination of aerial performance, video and text. When a young man is lost to suicide in a small Australian town, the community must navigate the trauma and find a way to embrace life. Ash, who has lost his best friend, becomes obsessed with 20th Century stuntman The Great Peters, who jumped from bridges with a rope around his neck. This is deeply affecting physical theatre exploring the issue of suicide among young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and it bites with the inevitability of gravity and loss. Yet there is also hope to be found as the performance explores how some parts of life feel as inevitable as physical forces. Man with the Iron Neck is thematically challenging, but the unique momentum of the aerial and dance performance promises a deeply moving experience.

In a world so strongly edited with filters, to be open and honest is quite an ask. #nofilter presents an interactive mixed media experience – no stage, no assigned seating and no filter. The audience are transported to a voyeuristic view of The Black Dog Circus. Vaudeville performers wander, parade and exclaim as they retell experiences of survival, or plead as they recount tales of loss. The affronted audience is brought into a world of emotion and struggle, paired with live instruments and vocals. #nofilter aims to help in normalising the conversations surrounding mental health and by articulating how effective these conversations can be. For shows on March 14, part of the ticket sales will go towards a suicide prevention charity. 

Gumbaynggirr woman Sandy Greenwood presents a one-woman show examining four generations of personal history. Matriarch promises to be a groundbreaking performance of intergenerational identity and resilience that brings ancestors' voices to life. This is the kind of story which is difficult to come across, offered in a heartfelt and earnest way. This work is a contemplative, storytelling performance that challenges the established perspectives and voices of history. By questioning what it means to be a fair-skinned Indigenous woman in contemporary Australia, Greenwood reasserts ownership of four generations of experience and trauma. Audiences may be challenged by this work, but it shouldn't be overlooked.

Most of the time when we experience theatre, we see only one iteration. Of all the script, casting and directing choices we view only one variation. There is one cast, one performance, and it's judged on how well we understand what the play is about. The Second Woman throws open those limits as Nat Randall performs the same scene with 100 different male performers over 24 hours. Suddenly there is contrast. Each time, the scene is the same but the performance is subtly, or sometimes shockingly, different. The dialogue lands like juicy drama on a weekday talk show. Anna Breckon and Nat Randall have transformed perpetual repetition into gripping unpredictability that will keep the audience hooked for hours. Not only can the audience come and go as they like across the 24 hour performance period, they are encouraged to see what it is like to visit the theatre at 4am. This is a performance that will expand the audience's understanding of what theatre can do and how people can push and change each other.

Nikola and I searches for truth and hope through three distinct parts: Nik, Ola and I. Writer and performer David Geddes uses these three to explore the philosophy and the truth of self. What is self? How is this reflected in the modern world? Not without joy, this tender and playful work flits across moods and draws upon the connections of science and spirituality forged by the engineer and physicist Nikola Tesla.

Throughout the work, Geddes imposes his own internal debates and findings, through the lens of Nik, Ola and I. How truly separate are these three characters? Are they the building blocks of one true self? Can there be one true self or is there only space for parts, not a whole? This fusion of psychedelia and drama promises to bring new light to identity and self love with love, light and laughs.

Performance art is a powerful medium for inciting social change, and through these shows, the creators and performers drag their audience through the womb-temperature of the norm, and throw them into the melting pot of glorious, confusing and stimulating conversations that only performance can awaken.