Brisbane’s annual Anywhere Festival is not only about discovering new nooks and crannies in the city, but coming to appreciate how core venues can be used differently to suit their varied performances… and so as the 2019 festival nears its end, it was great to be once looking for the big green festival banner outside the Gabba Substation for the visual feast of circus and physical theatre that is Dwell a world premiere chance to peak into the happenings of one charge-by-the-hour motel room over the course of a busy night.
Audience members enter the space to the ring of a bell to call the manager to act as escort to their ‘room’. The dedication to premise continues with a maintenance worker welcome and instruction as to how to approach any encountered room issues. From there, there is little dialogue, which is unnecessary anyway, given the perfect soundtrack selections in accompaniment of each guest’s scene; a couple (Elyse Fitzpatrick and Regan Henry) steal away for some spontaneous sexy-time to the sultry sounds of Jenny Owen Young’s – ‘Hot in Herre’ Nelly cover and a quirky girl (Ellen Grow) who ‘see things that nobody else sees’ rearranges the décor to ‘Dollhouse’. And so it continues, with each other guest (Jay Radford and Fliex Egger, Ellen Grow, Max Heers and Maitre Miramontes) conveying through movement all that we need to know to appreciate their diverse narratives.
Using high energy circus and physical theatre in blend with narrative is an interesting undertaking of its own accord, however, to do so in such a small space is especially impressive. Appealing in its intimacy, yet grand in its themes, the 50-minute show paces well until its final scene, which drags a little, and overall experience of the show could perhaps be enhanced by the addition of a couple of extra stories/scenes.
Especially as a first production, Dwell is a dynamic show. Its on-point soundtrack is a standout and lighting casts some stunning silhouettes of the physical performances in individual contortion and balance atop each other. Indeed, the strength and skill of every performer is undeniable, resulting in a number of well-earned mid-routine audience outbursts of applause.
The commitment of all performers also adds to the novelty of the show’s principle, as do the little touch details like the sounds of Sheb Wooley’s ‘Cheap Hotel’ to signpost its start. Humour is peppered throughout, most overtly through the scenes featuring the motel’s idiosyncratic and increasingly eccentric manager (Maddy Grant) in shuffle into the room and the Maid’s (Rachel Gibson) increasingly token Febreze style of room cleaning and bower-birding of abandoned items of clothing and more.
Dwell is an exciting and entertaining addition to this year’s Anywhere Festival program, perfect for the adventurous theatre-goer looking to spice up their experiences with a spot of physical theatre circusry. While it includes adult concepts and some nudity, these are all as part of its cheeky sense of fun. Besides, how you go wrong with a show that has a soundtrack that includes some Right Said Fred self-declared sexiness?
Dwell is playing until May 25.
This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 24.