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Adelaide Fringe 2011


No Strings Attached

Genre: Community Theatre

Venue: Migration Museum Chapel, 82 Kintore Avenue Adelaide


Low Down

 This remount of a 2005 work about detention resonates even more strongly amid the current debate on asylum-seeker rights in this country. Over a tight 25 minutes, No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability’s performance of“Trapped” opens a window onto the emotional terrain of confinement.


 A former Destitute Asylum, now the Migrant Museum, is an apt setting for this two-man physical theatre work about detention and the disenfranchised. Asylum, which should mean safe haven, is shown to be more about the different or the difficult being safely hidden away. “Are these walls protecting them from me or me from them?” one character asks. And in this white-walled room without windows, with the audience along two sides pinning the actors into the opposite corner, there is a definite temporal echo, of structures of control past and present.
Tight strips of light and white tape on the floor indicate the boundaries of a cell containing only a bowl of water and a stripped and dingy pair of bunk beds where one actor paces. To one side a chair is framed under a single hanging bulb, an interrogation room, an isolation cell. The migrant character played by Alirio Zavarce makes a dramatic entrance from one space to the other, launching his body from the chair and thrusting his head repeatedly into the water, simulating a violent assault from an unseen attacker. A soundscape of occasional metallic creaks and scrapes, combined with the actual slight industrial hum in this old building, helps to build the visceral sense of imprisonment—the harshness of it’s surfaces, the stagnation of the air. I feel the density and detail of this supporting soundscape could be developed more successfully without the snippets of music which surface from time to time as a somewhat tired indicator of time passing.
It is unclear where these two people are and whether it is indeed the same place or time. One could be in a prison or in a refugee detention camp, the other in an asylum or a home for the disabled. In this abstracted setting it becomes more of an imagined meeting, with the characters connecting via their difference. “Why are you in here?” “Because I am poor and I have an accent.” “Why are you in here?” “Because I am a little deaf in my left ear.”
The contrast of the two actors’ physicalities—Alirio’s swarthy massive presence with Kym Mackenzie’s small concave frame—works well dramatically, making visible the threat and the consequence of disempowerment. Alirio propels himself around this physical space with a strength and agility that mirrors his acting performance. His delivery hits just the right balance of dramatic intensity and understatement to support Kym’s performance and I become aware that this on-stage relationship, where familiarity and trust is shown to build over time, reflects the real relationship between these two actors—a mutual trust developed over time and across cultural and physical divides.