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Adelaide - making a show in a week

Mon, 12/03/2012

 Just ten days ago a group of strangers met to make a show together. It was a real experiment with two fingers firmly lifted to the comodified slave trade of the Fringe Arts Festival. No product to sell; we had real people in real time and a real adventure to boot - oiled by lack of time and a sense of play. Our home for six days was the wonderful Format collective space on Peel St, just off Hindley - the rougher end of the city. I have visited Adelaide over a dozen times in my life but on this occasion really came to understand something of this contradictory town. The city of churches and bodies in bags, of sobriety and sordid dealings, of order and disorder, wrapped round too many festivals - celebrating what?

In advance of meeting I asked each of the performers to prepare a short piece to perform, by way of introduction, sharing their favourite view of Adelaide. Several people chose the hills. For anyone who has never been, Adelaide nestles between the hills and the sea; plains that stretch along the Torrens River. The grid of streets in the central business district are well planned. The river doesn't seem to divide the place as many do but offers a glistening respite from the intense dry summer heat that shocks your airwaves. The characters in the show were as different as one could hope to find, all met online. I discovered the band first while trawling the net for local acts, this group of clean faced boys stood out. Their manager had jumped at this chance for the boys to perform and a seed was sown. Deep in my heart I knew we could make a show in such a short time, hung round the band's songs which talked of love and longing and loss (as most pop songs do). These are generic themes of the BiDiNG TiME story and part of what makes the show infinitely adaptable.

One of the band members played host to his young cousin out from England on her gap year. Hannah had done A level drama and so was roped into the show. Two performers, Isabella and Gary, came from a local casting agency AAA (Adelaide Artists Agency), run by the fabulous Nick and Carina, who coincidentally had been in London at Christmas time and able to check me out. I had found the equally fabulous Dave Jobling via face book and another professional performer - Jaye Gordon through friends of friends. And finally, a mother and daughter all the way from Port Augusta, the young Karina represented by AAA but 330km from home, so Mum came too with the proviso that she had to be in the show, and what a gem she turned out to be. Our merry band of misfits aged 15-55yrs brought a wonderful array of stories and experiences to the table. Six days is not long but the trust and determination were so keen amongst the cast and the form of the show so unusual, that we were surprised our audiences and ourselves. The audience started by being led onto the stage and being shown the bank of seats as performers shared their favourite views of Adelaide (& Port Augusta). They were back on stage dancing to the band for the New Year Club celebrations and signing along to Obamarama - mined from the preferred moves of Barack Obama and borrowed from RantBox (a small street show developed with Tangled Feet in London). The imperfections were forgiven over and over again as heart and integrity shone through. A local academic sent posted this response: 'a quiet hit of this years Fringe as local's shine in this extraordinary production'. Compare this with a one star review from a local star of the amateur circuit who had 'no idea what I was watching.' The contrast speaks volumes.

Each night an inspiring local speaker was invited to join the show and in five short minutes share something of their work. These included Lisa Philip-Harbutt director of Community Arts Network who spoke eloquently about why Adelaide is a great place for artsist and Dr Paul Downton, architect and urban planner responsible for the inspiring Christie Walk - an eco village in the heart of Adelaide.

At the heart of this experiment was a subject the cast and guests all knew well - Adelaide; woven round the story of Thyme and the themes of the project that had resonataed in some way with everyone. These elements danced with the solid character firmly at the centre. Some long to leave the city, others have found their way home from across Australia and across the seas, but all shared a deep love for the place they call home. I also asked some friends to pen thoughts about Adelaide that found their way into the show. Most notably by celebrated author Rosie Dub and artists manager Rino del Zoppo. His words summed up the event... 'although my relationship with this city is complicated, it is where I will always return to remember who I was, who I am and who I will be next.'  

Thanks to Christie Anthoney at Adelaide College of the Arts & Format Collective.