Adelaide Fringe: The Institute of Invisible Things and Glittery Clittery

The Institute of Invisible Things

We genuinely stumbled across this one, in Adelaide Central Markets. We happened to arrive 15 minutes before the Institute opened, so we grabbed piroshkis and waited with Karen, the installation’s gatekeeper.

The Institute of Invisible Things is a free, pop-up experience open only three hours a day during Fringe Festival. It’s also my favourite encounter this week. The show is a 10–15 minute miniature – the haiku of theatre, perhaps – which you enter alone, leaving your bags (and baggage) at the door.

Presented in three “chapters”, The Institute of Invisible Things asks you to contemplate nothingness, light, and connection. Creators Sarah John and Emma Beech guide you through this experience, set in a tiny gallery in a quiet corner of the Adelaide Market, the bustle of vendors just outside.

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The Institute makes powerful, tender use of very little: strong, concise writing; resonant imagery; and gentle participation. Sensory touches – a warm bowl of tea placed in my hands – are grounding and genuinely meditative.

The show’s epilogue asks you to contemplate sonder – both the loneliness and unity of realising that everyone who passes by is living their own complex life, with its own. For this moment, you’re the solo audience member at the Institute’s front window, looking into the theatre of the living market.

The Institute of Invisible Things runs until 3 March at Adelaide Fringe 2018.

 

 

Glittery Clittery: A Consensual Party

The Fringe Wives Club seem to be an institution at Adelaide Fringe – several friends and colleagues recommended their cabaret show at the Garden of Unearthly Delights. Glittery Clittery is part musical, part stand-up, part game show and all feminist comedy. They call it performance activism – “for the greater, glittery good.”

Playing at 10pm, this is a party worth staying up for. Tessa Waters, Rowena Hutson and Victoria Falconer sparkle – both literally and figuratively – as they sing about the sexism of pockets (and their absence) in women’s clothing, mactivist men, and how feminism is so hot right now. In all the fun, the Fringe Wives also acknowledge the show’s limitations – but there’s enough patriarchy-fucking in the show to get the audience very fired up indeed.

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For the game show Lagoon of Mystery, named for Carrie Fischer’s euphemism for the vag, Hutson appears dressed a huge, plush vulva. Three audience members compete to answer anatomical trivia. (My inner Hermione kicks in as I regret not volunteering and stick my arm up anyway to answer how many nerve endings a clit has (8000, cheers).) It’s edutainment at its finest, but also a gloomy reminder of how bad our sex ed. is. (Folks, it’s not too late to learn!)

Glittery Clittery is such a joy that I nearly bought a glittery bum-bag. I’d definitely buy a soundtrack. Tessa Waters and Victoria Falconer each has a solo shows running at Fringe, too – check them out if you can. Fellow critic Jane Howard has been tweeting about the disproportionate representation of male comedians at Fringe. Help address the imbalance while also learning more about the lagoon of mystery or, as I prefer, breakfast of champions.

Glittery Clittery: A Consenusal Party has recently been nominated for a Green Room Award for Best Ensemble. It runs until 18 March 2018 at Le Cascadeur at The Garden of Unearthly Delights as part of Adelaide Fringe Festival.

Adelaide Fringe: Fallot (FÄ-‘LŌ)

Fallot is a circus-infused physical theatre work about the eponymous heart defect, Tetralogy of Fallot, as experienced by circus artist Marianna Joslin. Company 2 directors Chelsea McGuffin and David Carberry produce Fallot, performed by Joslin, Phoebe ArmstrongOlivia PorterCasey Douglas and Jake Silvestro.

The show had a developmental run at Brisbane Powerhouse during Wonderland Festival 2017; I missed Fallot then, so I was glad to catch up on my Bris-circus during Adelaide Fringe. In the intimate Empire Theatre tent, I love that you can see more of the physical work of circus by sheer proximity. There’s a lot of muscle and control in Fallot, perhaps fitting for a show that explores the heart muscle’s control over the function of body and mind.

In this particular run of Fallot, Joslin’s role in the show is limited by a recent injury, so she becomes the narrator and shadow of her own story. Joslin has experienced the physical and emotional trauma of several open-heart surgeries, and Fallot is at its strongest when its performers use their physical strength to show the vulnerability that comes with being at the mercy of doctors, anaesthetists and nurses.

The show has a fantastic, uncanny look: screens turn theatre into operating theatre, with freaky robed surgeons contrasting with beige lace and medical corsetry. White hospital sheets are a recurring motif, used as tissu to climb, rope, or costuming. The female performers each embody aspects of Joslin’s experiences, centred around a black operating table on wheels. A standout scene has Douglas and Silvestro, as doctors, shifting their co-performers on, off and around that table, using subtle versions of Company 2’s signature toss-the-girl manoeuvres to rob them of their agency. Another sees nurses weave hospital sheets around Armstong’s legs before hoisting her to the ceiling to float in the limbo of anaesthesia.

Fallot does struggle to settle on a tone. It plays up moments of classic cabaret between pathos-driven scenes, but there isn’t a clear sense of physical narrative between these – it doesn’t quite flow yet. This is most evident in the final scene, a lip-syncing number complete with heart puppets – its weirdness, though not unwelcome, comes from left field. It’s madcap, but inconsistent. Part of the challenge here is that Fallot’s narrative is held together by actual narration by Joslin – some live, some recorded – often overlong and leaning hard on clichés that wind up more tiresome than heart-warming.

Company 2 works with first-rate physical performers, but Fallot doesn’t trust those artists to show (rather than tell) the story. Fortunately, David Carberry’s musical score is a compelling pulse that resonates with the performers and with the beat of our own hearts.

Fallot runs at the Royal Croquet Club at Adelaide Fringe until 25 February.

Adelaide Fringe: Séance

I booked very cheap tickets to Adelaide months ago, not even realising we’d be here in time for Fringe. It’s a happy coincidence, so in between eating a lot and looking at myself in the Gallery of South Australia, I’ve been seeing as much theatre as my wallet can handle (not heaps, but still). Why leave my cosy AirBnB bed during daylight hours when I could write scrappy reviews all day and see shows at night?

To a Queenslander, Adelaide Fringe Festival – particularly the Rundle Park venue Garden of Earthly Delights – looks like The Ekka but for actual art. There’s a good bit of dustbowl Carnivàle vibe thrown in, and plenty to stumble across. We were contemplating Sideshow Alley (my beau has never been on a Ferris Wheel?!) when we found Séance.

It makes sense that Séance is near the thrill rides: it kind of serves as the haunted house of Fringe. Séance is, quite literally, a show-in-a-box – it takes place in a shipping crate, in pitch darkness. It’s only 15–20 minutes long, but we decided it was a far better way to sink $20 each than on dodgems. The show (and, presumably, crate) has been transported from Edinburgh Fringe, but is facilitated by newish Melbourne theatre company, Realscape (in association with Darkfield – a collaboration between Glen Neath and David Rosenberg). Their modus operandi is to present “unforgettable theatrical experiences that captivate and inspire even the sixth sense.”

Inside the container is a long table, with old-fashioned red theatre chairs lining either side. We’re asked to put on noise-cancelling headphones before we’re plunged into darkness. Without wanting to give the game away – especially with such a short show – Séance relies on aural illusion. Using binaural audio, the show takes place inside your head, with your brain extrapolating Foley into reality around you. (For those who’ve never encountered the weirdness of ASMR YouTube, binaural microphones record “3D sound”. It’s virtual reality, but via audio.)

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I’m pleased to read that Darkfield is an ongoing project – using “actors … binaural sound, pitch darkness and movement … in shipping containers to explore fear and anxiety.” What a damn fine project. Séance is the first in this collection of shows, and it proves that binaural audio and light (or lack thereof) are a fantastic way to create a memorable, affecting experience. As well, the show’s transportable nature calls back to the travelling illusionists and snake-oil salesmen of old.

But, for a show that relies on immersion, the team handling the audience is careless. While I understand the importance and complexity of safety warnings for such a show (e.g. to have someone leave partway would destroy the darkness), there was little effort to set the mood and bring us into the Spiritualist world of the séance itself. We were initiated by a dude in green basketball shorts, as chill and casual as any carnie strapping us into a ride. The show ought to have begun outside the container, not once the lights went out. This isn’t the dodgems; this is a dollar-a-minute theatre experience.

Within the audio of the show, as well, a few key clues busted the suspension of my disbelief, despite the Mulderesque fervour with which I wanted to believe. (For example, perhaps the audio could’ve been rerecorded with local accents.) But all in all, I found myself wanting more. While I get that there’s only so long you can lock 20 people in a dark box, another five, 10 or even 15 minutes would’ve allowed the writers to flesh (or perhaps spirit) out a more consistent, impactful narrative.

I loved the innovations used in Séance, and hope this spooky little show encourages more theatre-makers to push on the potential of binaural audio.

Séance plays in The Garden of Earthly Delights throughout Adelaide Fringe Festival.

Three and a half stars.