Adelaide Festival 2023
At the more low-tech end of the spectrum, there was The river that ran uphill A hard-hitting but hopeful tale of a cyclone that devastated Vanuatu in 2015, it relied on little more than a blue tarp and clever use of lighting.
Then there was the four-hour Dutch stage adaptation of the traumatic novel a little life. A small group of musicians accompanied the performance live, and the set included a working kitchen that the characters used throughout, the smell of cooking invoking a sense of safety and comfort that would be suddenly snatched away by a single line or a horrific flashback.
The production, with its marathon running time and the brutal scenes of assaults and self-harm, demanded a lot from both the actors and the audience. The stage was positioned in the middle of the room, and the audience sat on opposite sides, which meant that every time I turned away as the protagonist Jude caught a blade against his skin, I was watching like a man on the other Page also looked elsewhere the stage.
Unexpectedly, the show was also demanding of its assistant director, Daniël ‘t Hoen – the night I attended one of the actors was ill, so Hoen stepped in. Audiences were told he had no acting experience and would often read from the script, but — aside from not physically fitting the description of the role — Hoen was a natural.
There seemed to be a strange series of accidents, arrests, controversies and unfortunate events that the festival had to quickly sidestep. Both the opening night of Jekyll and Hyde And Messa da Requiem were suspended due to medical emergencies (one in the audience and one backstage), a performer was charged with an “indecent act” on his flight to Australia, and two fine art exhibitions were moved from their original location in the Saturday Museum to a room in the Adelaide Railway Station.
With shows willing to experiment that aren’t sure, the Adelaide Festival’s program is something to appreciate. Having a safe run of shows that are simply good but extremely memorable ends up being boring and stagnant.
Sometimes the experiment doesn’t quite work out. At The Cage Projectpianist Cédric Tiberghien opened the concert by explaining that what appeared to be a traditional grand piano topped by a gently spinning sculpture is in fact a new breed of instrument. The structure above him was programmed to respond to his commands as he played, with the piano also being adjusted to create dissonant and unexpected sounds.
It was an ambitious work, where unfortunately the idea outweighed the execution – there was little or no variation in the music over the hour and 15 minutes, making it feel less like a concert and more like a talented musician, who tunes a piano.
But that’s the price of taking a risk – sometimes it fizzles, but sometimes it leads to remarkable work that will stay with you forever and help advance a craft.
Elizabeth Flux traveled to Adelaide as a guest of the Adelaide Festival.
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https://www.smh.com.au/culture/theatre/here-s-what-can-happen-when-theatre-stops-playing-it-safe-20230308-p5cqk7.html?ref=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_source=rss_culture Adelaide Festival 2023