Adelaide Fringe Reflections

We are here performing at the Adelaide Fringe, the largest arts festival in the southern hemisphere, enjoying the perks of this blissful Australian climate! This is the farthest Superbolt has travelled (as a company and individually!) and we really are having the experience of a lifetime. So many new people, shows, sun, sea, parties, wine and kangaroos to soak up- our days are packed!

We perform each day in a massive tent called Umbrella Revolution in the Garden of Unearthly Delights. This is in a handy central location with many punters flocking to the Gardens each night to enjoy the festival atmosphere, eat the street food, and get a little bit merry. Performing-wise there has been a lot for us to get used to: the tent is vast so radio mics must be worn throughout, audiences are a bit more chilled out than at the Edinburgh Fringe (“It starts at 7pm? So that means we can arrive at 7.10 right?” Errr!!) and we’ve had to speak with extra clarity so the Aussies can get to grips with our regional Lyme Regis accents. One epically hot bikram yoga-style matinee performance during a heat wave left us lost for words and fluids. But that’s as dramatic as has been! Performing in this tent has meant we have to be as big as possible with our level of play, so we’ve been embracing our Lecoq training (Jeu Masqué- masked play) to make sure our bodies and our reactions are as clear and strong as possible. Each show is an invigorating, sweaty and thrilling work out, I don’t think I have ever been this fit!

Audience members have been all kinds of lovely. Our show attracts a variety of people, from hardcore Jurassic Park fans and theatre enthusiasts to those who have never seen a theatre show before. (The Gardens host a lot of comedy, cabaret, burlesque and music shows, and theatre is rare treat in our venue). Some audiences have been very vocal with their laughter, others have been quieter and listened more thoughtfully. One wonderful audience member wrote to us after the show to tell us that after coming out the tent, she had felt compelled to call up both her parents to make sure her loved ones knew she appreciated them. (As a performer, it doesn’t get much more motivating than this!) We have had children come in and watch with an awed concentration that is very endearing! One of the moments I enjoy the most when performing our show is at the beginning when we welcome the audience into the space in-character as we each get a chance to get to know some of our crowd on a more personal level. Even though I am pretending to be a grumpy teenage girl who doesn’t really want to be there, I am able to make connections and have a laugh with friendly audience members. We’ve found this part of the show is crucial to getting people relaxed and onboard (or at the very least, curious!). It reminds the audience the show is live and makes us feel like we are all in this together!

The Garden of Unearthly DelightsReally, it’s the people that make a place and we have met too many brilliant people to mention. The Front of House staff are fantastic, doing their many duties with brilliant smiles and outfits to match (they dress up in a different theme each day, from Bowie to the Great Gatsby, looking more fabulous than the performers!) In fact, the aesthetic of this festival overall is more akin to music festivals than any theatre festivals I have attended, and there is a real effort to make each venue as beautiful, stylish and colourful as possible. Seeing the Gardens for the first time at night with all the lanterns lit up and massive bats flying overhead took our breath away!

A key part of my enjoyment of this festival has been getting to know the other performers, both onstage and off. We’ve met a host of comedians, dancers, singers, magicians and acrobats who have all gravitated towards the fringe. (We had a particularly great day-off wine tasting in the McLaren Vale with some very lovely performers.) Sharing a dressing room with drag queens has made me understand just how much effort goes into their physical preparation (we are talking serious amounts of make up, wigs and epic costumes) so they are ready to dazzle their public each day. In fact, I am hugely admiring of the work of the drag artists here; their beauty, bravery, and ability to glow in mesmerising and gorgeous ways is totally arresting. I have fallen in love with a couple of drag queens already (le Gateau Chocolat, Johnny Woo, I am talking to you). I have loved one-person shows, especially Butt Kapinski, Juan Vesuvius and Betty Grumble, all of whom are hilarious, captivating and intelligent in different ways. A fringe highlight for me has been the two hander, Moonlight After Midnight, an elegant and compelling piece of theatre, brilliantly written and performed. Being part of this festival means I get to be an audience member in plenty of shows, and this experience has reminded me that performing can be such a noble and honourable profession. Performers, at their best, are so, so giving. You go through insane amounts of preparation and repetition all the while trying your upmost to keep your piece fresh, real and at top level, responding to your environment, any technical difficulties or unpredictable audiences, with grace and energy. You put yourself out there and defend your work to a group of strangers, any of whom could leave at any moment. And you do all of this so that people can come together and have a beautiful, unexpected, happy or thought-provoking time. When I see a good show, it is impossible for me to be anywhere other than in that present moment, and even when it is silly and fun and I laugh the whole way through, I feel affected in a deeper way. I have been working in theatre since I was 10 years old and I am still taken aback when I see people with courage and generosity doing things I could never do!

And don’t even get me started on the brilliance of technicians, producers and other people working tirelessly behind the scenes to facilitate the performances. These people are often invisible to the audience, yet their work is key to making it all happen. Here is where I do an extra special mention to Ina (our technician and stage manager), Tid (our associate director), and James, Josh and all the team at Seabright productions (our producers for Dinosaur Park), and Hannah (General Manager). These guys are incredible and our audiences’ appreciation of the show is thanks to this whole team.

I know I will remember this experience for a long time and sharing this with Frode and Simon has sparked many thoughts for new shows, projects and passions in all of us. We’ve got one more week to go here in “Radelaide”, before we go on to Melbourne Comedy festival and we are excited!!

Maria x

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