Photos – Matt Byrne

Private View is a show danced by members of Restless Dance Theatre, a group where dancers with and without disability work together to create work which invites the audience into the worlds of people with a disability usually hidden from view. This show announced that it would explore some of the taboos about love and sex. I thought, OK, our society has plenty of taboos about sex, but about love? But of course, one of our taboos is to ignore the fact that people with disabilities have desires, emotions, and fantasies, and that they experience just like anyone else the full range of joy and disaster involved in love and sex.

The show is directed by Michelle Ryan, and consists of four tableaux, played on four separate stages surrounding the audience, in the intimate space of the Odeon Theatre in Norwood. These tableaux were connected by songs composed and sung by the singer-songwriter Carla Lippis, who also prowled around the four stages as voyeur, companion, and supporter, bringing the audience into the experience of each of the tableaux. 

The first dance showed a man whose fantasy it was to have a romantic dinner in a French restaurant. He was shown setting the table for two in his little apartment, complete with candles and a rose. He danced the ecstasy of his fantasy, which I felt would actually have been tarnished had a real woman sat down in the chair provided for her. And when Carla Lippis did sit down in it, it was as a figment of his imagination, not a real woman. This scene was a lot of fun.

The second showed a lesbian couple exploring the play and the hurt of experimental sex. It finished with one of the women being left alone, and in her abandonment she addressed individual members of the audience with questions like “What is the most beautiful thing anyone has ever said to you?” “What do you want from sex?” (to which the audience member addressed replied “A certain degree of regularity”!) and suchlike. The ubiquitous Carla was there to hand the microphone to the people to whom the questions were directed.

The third tableau was of a woman in a party gown who had clearly been rejected in love, and she danced her anguish, her body and spirit seriously wounded by her experience. In the fourth, two teenagers meet after texting, and their enactment of those first awkward moments of intimacy in the unwelcome company of a “responsible adult” resonated with everyone in the audience. At the conclusion of the show all the dancers come and dance with the audience.

The songs connect the tableaux seamlessly, and once the sound engineers had got the balance right the words were clear. In general the songs emphasised the central message: that people with disability have the same longings and desires as anyone else, and that we should get over our taboo about this. And what was outstandingly evident were that as dancers all of them are consummate artists – all knew how to express in dance the complex play of their inner world. This show is delightful, touching, and expertly put together, and is a testament to the insight and skill of all involved in Restless Dance Theatre.

Event details

Adelaide Festival 2024
Private View
Restless Dance Theatre

Director Michelle Ryan

Venue: Odeon Theatre | Kaurna Country, 57A Queen Street, Norwood SA
Dates: 29 February – 9 March 2024
Tickets: $59 – $47
Bookings: www.adelaidefestival.com.au

 

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