Space Theatre, Wed 28 Oct
Intimacy is explored in ways both metaphorical and real in this performance. Even before the show starts the cast of four are on hand to welcome you or perhaps help you find a seat. But don’t be late or you won’t be allowed in. It would be too much of an intrusion. The seating has the two halves of the audience facing each other and there is sufficient lighting in this small space for you to feel part of a familiar gathering.
Music is provided by guitarist Simon Eszeky, who for much of the show is seated in the front row with the audience, and singer Emma Bathgate, who plays a large part in making the crowd feel comfortable. Members of the audience will be called upon to assist in various ways. I don’t imagine anyone anticipating when buying a ticket that they may be helping Michelle Ryan change into a formal dress, or be sitting at a campfire with Vincent Crowley discussing intimate thoughts. Or even being asked to read aloud a passage from Fifty Shades Of Grey.
We first meet Michelle as a storyteller, relating dreams which are both amusing and surreal. We witness her needing assistance to move around the stage. Although the big picture story is the loss of Michelle’s physical capacity, and of her career as a dancer following the onset of Multiple Sclerosis, Intimacy does not dwell on what has been lost or the difficulties encountered. It explores the changes and celebrates what remains. Each physical step is a life affirming achievement.
A dance performance at the centre of the show with Michelle and Vincent in formal dress is breathtakingly beautiful, and shows that Michelle can still be a mesmerizing dancer. The music of Simon and Emma also excels during this scene.
There is humour, with much of the comic heavy lifting coming from Vincent Crowley, whose awkwardness with intimacy is a source of considerable amusement. His attempts at undressing while remaining inside a sleeping bag keep the laughs coming.
Themes which could have been confronting or disturbing manage to be dealt with in an entertaining way, without ever being trivialized. Michelle’s real life story has a message for us all about learning to accept help from others while battling to maintain dignity and independence, when we all inevitably face challenges both physical and emotional.
Intimacy performs at Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, from 7.30pm until Sat 31 Oct.
Book at BASS on 131 246 or bass.net.au. Click HERE to purchase your tickets.