Adelaide Fringe 2012
Utilising puppets, acrobatics, dance, music and soliloquys, five performers from Eastern Europe ask the audience to stop and consider some of life’s hard questions. Why are we here? Why do our imaginations begin to erode as we grow up? Why are we afraid of death? Who are we if we have nobody to love? These prurient questions are never quite answered, but the overall message seems to be that we’re all going to die anyway, so we should all just embrace happiness whilst we can.
The show begins with a very nervous young man dressed in purple explaining that his companion wanted to be here tonight, but unfortunately he died of a heart attack – pop! It’s an implicit reminder that life is too short. In the next scene it is revealed that his companion, dressed in orange, is actually not dead. But the fellow in orange is confused as to why when nearing death, adults become less and less joyful and inquisitive. This prompts the next performer, a young woman dressed in green, to wax lyrical about the nature of infinity and the universe, and that of the ‘Five Doors’ – Religion, Science, Art, Love and Death – fear shuts all of them but Death. Next, a woman in red declares that mortals need to fight against ‘the dirt’ (death) and embrace passion, and living. The last performer, a woman dressed in white, pines for her lover, and questions whether that is all life is – loving one another, and being happy.
All of the performers were colour co-ordinated by costume, and seemed to be archetypes. The emcee, in violet, was the archetype of the Manic Ringmaster, like the Wizard of Oz, or Alice in Wonderland’s White Rabbit. The man in yellow was the Plucky Youth, the woman in green was the Dreamer, the woman in red was the Anarchist and the woman in white was the Pure Lover. The performance is also reminiscent of fantasy books such as The Wizard of Oz or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in that throughout the journey, the cast steadily grows up, and each cast member has their own piece of wisdom to depart.
If you could call it wisdom. Some of the quotes were quite profound; others were just convoluted or confusing. Without a strong structure, the piece was also uneven in tempo. The soliloquys quickly became repetitive and meandering, and the audience lost interest until the monologues were broken up by dancing, acrobatics or puppets. The troupe’s strength really lies in their ability to master different art forms, with the acrobatics and puppetry in particular being impressive (and the puppets amusingly resembled Prince and Simply Red’s Mick Hucknall). The cast also went out of their way to make the audience feel welcome and involved, making earnest eye contact when speaking, and regularly pulling people from their seats to dance to songs that had delightfully silly lyrics. Some examples are ‘limbs grow back like a starfish’, or ‘flowers in my head’.
This sort of theatre is not for everyone, but if you go in there expecting philosophy that is more in the vein of William S. Burroughs than Pierre Bourdieu, you should be fine. Even though it doesn’t always succeed in being deep, there are moments in there that will make you smile and enjoy yourself. And that, according to Nostalgia for Reality, is what’s most important in life anyway.