Sydney Festival’s popular About An Hour series will overrun Carriageworks with a program of 38 performances spanning theatre, dance,opera, magic and acrobatics. BRAG caught up with programmer Adam McGowan to get the low-down on what to expect from the diverse lineup.

Each show aims for the 60-minute mark and cost just $35 a head. With such a small investment of time and cash, McGowan urges people to “take a bit of a chance on the works”. This idea of chance courses through these performances, especially Cadavre Exquis (Exquisite Corpse). This theatrical experiment is inspired by the Surrealist game of the same name, where a poet writes a single line on a piece of paper before folding it over and passing it to the next person, composing an unpredictable collaboration. Cadavre Exquis was similarly devised by several theatre companies: Kassys (The Netherlands), Nature Theater of Oklahoma (US), Tim Crouch (UK) and Nicole Beutler (Germany/The Netherlands). McGowan reveals that each part is guided only by the last minute of the previous piece, which he describes as a “truly original and dynamic approach to theatre making”.

About An Hour’s programmer is equally excited about Forklift. KAGE combines choreography and aerial acrobatics with a functioning forklift. In Gudirr Gudirr, Dalisa Pigram explores the lives of Aboriginal people around Broome. She explains that her work takes its name from the bird that calls when the tide is turning, with the dance serving as a warning that “we need to look at new ways to take our cultural knowledge forward, keeping old ways strong in a new light”. In His Music Burns, the Sydney Chamber Opera and Sydney Theatre Company present two contemporary masterpieces: pas И pas – nulle part…, a musical meditation on the absurdist poems of Samuel Beckett, and Into The Little Hill, a retelling of the Pied Piper as a dark political tragedy.

In response to the real potential to engage with a family audience, the program includes two rigorous and dynamic theatre works for children. In I, Malvolio, actor Tim Crouch cheekily gives this minor character from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night a voice in what McGowan refers to as “almost a stand-up piece”. Just don’t mistakenly take your kids to the deliciously vulgar late-night adults-only show. Serendipitously, theatre company My Darling Patricia will present another re-imagining of the story of the Pied Piper, who’s been re-cast as a dancing bear. The Piper offers the very special opportunity to purchase a ticket to participate onstage and play the collective roles of the children and the rats.

Similarly, audience interaction is also central to Bullet Catch, which is part magic show and part storytelling. This famously fatal trick serves as the act’s finale, though the exhilarating twist is that an audience member is chosen to pull the trigger. McGowan suggests that though this climax is undoubtedly gripping, what’s especially interesting is its psychological depth, and the exploration of “the risks that people take in performance”.

The invitation to become part of a performance is also vital to Richard DeDomenici’s ambitious The Redux Project. Essentially, he and a group of locals will re-shoot scenes from The Matrix, Muriel’s Wedding, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Priscilla: Queen Of The Desert, which will screen at the festival alongside the original films. McGowan agrees that there’s a “real sense of mischief” in this work, with DeDomenici’s choice of high-budget projects amplifying the humorously lo-fi aesthetic. This project highlights the community engagement that’s at the heart of About An Hour.


About An Hour presents at Carriageworks for Sydney Festival 2014 from January 9-26.

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