My Adelaide trips are always planned with the utmost discerning rigor. Yes, Adelaide does boast an impressive expanse of breathtaking countrysides and a sweeping selection of churches, but culturally, it is most alive at this particular moment of the year. Various notable festivals intersect at the February/March period to make it the busiest time of year. There is the exciting Adelaide Fringe, the Adelaide Festival, which now occurs annually, Womad, the Adelaide Writer’s Week, and um… Clipsal, which can be experienced, aurally, and most regrettably, throughout the city.
I attended last weekend to see an impressive selection of bodaciously stately shows at the Festival, which is at the helm of Paul Grabowsky in his final year as artistic director. I went to see him perform on my birthday a couple of years ago. During a particularly poignant piece, a wine glass spontaneously shattered. Paul explained afterwards that it must have been heartbroken.
If Melbourne’s festival is contemporary and cutting edge, Adelaide’s is safe, and monumental. Ennio Morricone, live, with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and Adelaide Festival Chorus, was spectacular (and barely even overshadowed by the buzzing reverberations of the Clipsal cars, despite numerous complaints,) while the historically significant The Ham Funeral, a quirky Patrick White play presented in a vaudevillian gothic drama style, brought us back to 1962, when it was rejected by the Adelaide Festival for being too difficult to understand, but staged by the Adelaide University Theatre Guild. This then-unconventionally unnaturalistic approach to theatre prompted the now-vivacious Adelaide Fringe.
I took a photo of the formidable Peter Goers, actor, director, reviewer and presenter on ABC Adelaide. I also made the grave mistake of asking him if he was present at the original performance of The Ham Funeral. He told me that he would have been about eight.
I also went to see Raoul, which was an utterly spectacular piece of theatre making. Performed by James Thirree, artist, acrobat, clown, poet and magician, grandson of Charlie Chaplin and great-grandson of Eugene O’Neil, this work was indeed masterly and a must-see if one gets the opportunity to.
Perhaps the most intimate and affecting piece at the festival for me was Gardenia, from the Belgian group Les Ballets C de la B. The lives of nine transsexual and transgender men were scrutinized to reveal startlingly beautiful and real people, just being themselves. I brought along two dear sartorially savvy friends, Jai and Jay. Yes.