REVIEW – Awful/Big Adventure

Though it needs a little more time to grow up, the Suicide Ensemble’s loudest & proudest work promises an unforgettable experience for the curious explorer.

Like a combination of death cult, escape room and house party,  Awful/Big Adventure doesn’t set an agenda for the viewer – rather setting the stage for a night of discovery and debauchery. Played fast and loose, in between spaced out segments of plot progression there’s opportunity for drinks, drugs, dares and dancing, singing and story-telling – plenty to do and plenty of time to do it in. Otherwise you’re left to explore the impressive venue (the heritage listed ACPA building) – uncovering shared mysteries as you chase secret-keeping beasts and discover artefacts of the Peter Pan mythos in which the work is heavily invested.

Whilst fantastically ambitious, it’s perhaps spread a little too thin as cast and crew struggle to keep entertaining. There’s a loose plot but it’s hard to track down, and constant breaking of the fourth wall weakens the work’s emotional impact; extreme length and form make arbitrary rules and juvenile antics that might otherwise be endearing or exciting feel akin to a night of babysitting. Though more impressive in scope, Awful/Big draws a somewhat lacklustre comparison to the Ensemble’s earlier work – the immersive Game – taking a step back in execution and audience investment. That being said, if you can last the full two hours, it pays off; the conclusion is a perfectly executed, emotionally manipulative moment of clarity and commentary on the cost of innocence.
All in all, it’s much a case of getting out what you put in – your energy reserves and suspension of disbelief will definitely get a workout, but the experience is unlike any other. It may need an extra coat of polish, but The Suicide Ensemble‘s latest work continues to push the envelope on what can be achieved through the the medium, further cementing their position as movers and shakers of the Brisbane arts scene.

Reviewed by Jason Lomas

Learn more about Awful/Big Adventure here

Learn more about The Suicide Ensemble here

This review is based on the reviewer’s experience of the performance on May 19.