Adelaide Fringe 2014
Outback Homosexual Serial Killer is a media-driven journey; a one man performance that takes its audience across thousands of miles of Australian countryside as it draws them deeply inside the psyche of its protagonist, one Devon Baxter.
Salad Days Inc. is festooned with knitted bunting and tea cosies as we wait to be let in to the performance. The space is intimate inside, our seats pressing forward to practically join Dion Teasdale in the performance area at the front of the room. Props litter the stage and Teasdale stands amidst it all while Louis Armstrong plays. Teasdale switches on the projector and there is a moment of strange semiotics as the Epson logo (“Exceed Your Vision”) is splashed across his chest whilst it warms up. He is surrounded by body bags, an old school slide projector, an automotive work light, an industrial pendant lamp, a maglight, and other oddments. It’s an eclectic collection of flotsam before us, but then it’s an eclectic show.
Outback Homosexual Serial Killer is a bit of a mind-bender. Teasdale tells the story of a bank teller’s descent into murderous madness as he embarks on a cross-country killing spree. It’s all very believable at first glance – The first thing we do when we get home is to Google Devon Baxter to see if we can find out more about the man behind the crimes…But no such serial killer exists, or ever has done. In fact, none of the salient details resemble those of any serial killers to date. The whole thing is made up; a bit of storytelling, spun up from Teasdale’s own imagination, it would seem. Which is fine; art is frequently imaginary. But it leaves us with a lot of questions (which is also fine).
For one thing, Baxter doesn’t really go anywhere. That is, he travels in a ute through the desert, but he isn’t on any kind of a personal journey apart, possibly, from an inward spiral. Of course, art doesn’t have to have a point, but if this is a story, we’re left wondering what the resolution is. Baxter goes from being a bank teller irritated by co workers and increasingly unnerved by auditory hallucinations, to a full blown psychotic, tear-assing around the back end of nowhere (in his dreams, we can see his iPhone reflected in his mirrored aviators) to, strangely, drag queen starring in her own personal musical. But we weren’t able to discern any growth or progression. It’s unclear if people are actually murdered or is they’re just hallucinated and, ultimately, all of the ‘facts’ become suspect in the maelstrom of voice modification and psychedelic videos.
It’s a visually interesting piece, with heavily stylized acting from Teasdale overlaying a landscape of projections and extremely distorted audio. The journey is noteworthy in that it’s maddening – we feel a bit like we are joining Baxter on his slide into dementia. Quite heavily internal, this feels like an attempt at a reconstruction; a forensic piecing together, but it’s really just a thought-experiment. Ultimately, this is what the fringe is all about: having an idea; taking a punt, and seeing what sticks.
Teasdale’s piece may not redefine modern drama, but it’s an interesting piece with a number of unusual aspects.