Restless Dance Theatre
Hilton Hotel, Adelaide
Rarely has a site-specific dance work ‘worked’ its chosen site as comprehensively as Restless Dance Theatre’s entrancing Intimate Spaces. The company’s first production for the Adelaide Festival of Arts, conceived and directed by artistic director Michelle Ryan, takes us behind the scenes at Adelaide’s Hilton Hotel, where we are guided from the 17th floor to the basement, stopping en route in a guest room, a loading dock, laundry and kitchen, ending up on a mezzanine overlooking the ground floor bar.
The audience for each show is limited to 11, creating a certain camaraderie, although we are enjoined at the outset to be silent observers. After an entertaining start at a mock concierge desk in the foyer, where we are given a series of instructions in writing by a silent bell boy, played beguilingly by Kym MacKenzie, a guide leads us up to the 17th floor where we encounter an abandoned suitcase in a corridor. A solo dancer emerges, and her dance segues into a gentle trio, viewed from a distance at the end of the corridor, before we are led into a darkened guest room, where we become torch wielding voyeurs to a couple’s gentle intimacies. Here, as in many of the vignettes, understatement is powerfully suggestive, and Kathryn Evans and Michael Hodyl play this scene with a delightfully light touch.
By way of contrast, the giant washing machines in the laundry inspire an explosive duet by Chris Dyke and Lorcan Hopper, their movements mimicking the washing tumult all around. Jason Sweeney’s soundscape is extremely effective in this scene, as is Geoff Cobham’s ultra violet lighting, which renders the mountains of white towels incandescent. This is one of several scenes in which the dancers coexist in the space with regular hotel staff, deliberately blurring the lines between performance and ‘normal’ life. The duet that follows between two female hotel workers, accompanied by raucous laughter and bouncing off walls, is profoundly unsettling, as an initially innocent conversation turns into vicious mocking of a woman in a wheelchair. Kathryn Adams and Abby Hampton voice this casual cruelty perfectly, making a profound point about the exclusion of people with disabilities from many public places, including hotels such the Hilton itself.
The hotel workers who lead us from space to space each have their own idiosyncrasies, scratching, twitching and twirling, and even giving vent to a well-timed scream as we come upon a startling scene in the kitchen. The final scene, a flash mob in the downstairs bar beautifully integrating dancers with and without a disability to Jason Sweeney’s terrific voice over, is a joyous knock out.
Intimate Space is a funny, touching, uplifting gem: it’s generated such a buzz around Adelaide that all 60 shows have sold out. Such a successful Festival debut is a tremendous vindication of Ryan’s artistic vision for the company to become a force in mainstream theatre.
- MAGGIE TONKIN