No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability & Diverse Abilities Dance Collective, DADC (Singapore). Adelaide Festival Centre. 13 Nov 2020
There’s live performance and there’s live Zoom performance. No Strings and DADC have just pulled off both in an absolutely delightful international coup. Each company had a live performance group in situ, one in Singapore and one in Adelaide. But they merged as one interactive body via a Zoom collaboration.
Here in Adelaide, a live audience gathered covid-style in the Festival Centre’s Quartet Bar with the No Strings performers sitting beneath the giant screen whereupon they were joined by the Singapore performers. The theme of the event, apart from being a ground-breaking piece of new-tech international theatre, was an exploration of how performers with disability in two worlds have been coping with covid-19.
The show’s title is the answer. Same Same. Everyone, no matter where, has been going through the same weird and worrying experience of pandemic life.
The show’s creative director and host, Jeffrey Tan, interviewed the diversity of performers one by one, establishing their differences. They have different abilities, different interests, different family groupings, different cultures, even different colour preferences. But they all share new living conditions, particularly the hand-washing rituals. And there were 20 characters on the big Zoom grid, all miming hand-washing at once; quite an artwork if one looks at sheer aesthetics. But it was saying much more.
Tan and Adelaide’s Emma Beech liaise and direct from their venues, Beech guiding the likes of Zoe to perform a lithe, hair-flicking dance of liberation while Tan offers Jasprin in a bright red dress doing something of a lively Bollywood routine. At the end of the show, the Singapore crew is shown as a dance group while in Adelaide, performers swayed in harmony.
Tan has an exceptionally agreeable voice and demeanour. He is utterly inclusive and everyone shows loving patience with those who need a moment longer to get their words out. By the end of the Zoom hour, the strengths, skills, and characters of all the performers have been elicited and an extremely pleasing spirit of conviviality has presided.
And one feels one has come to know a bunch of interesting people from near and afar.
Tan said he devised this performance concept while brooding on the limitations that covid had inflicted on the theatre world. Partnering with No Strings’ Emma Beech brought forth the support of Arts South Australia and the Adelaide Festival Centre and, at his end, Maya Dance Theatre, the Singapore International Foundation, and Singapore Repertory Theatre. Also melded were the professional peers, Subastian Tan over there and Michaela Cantwell here. The whole endeavour grew in substance, strength, and authority; all of which showed when it came to the first of four public performances.
Sightlines in the Quartet Bar are nothing to write home about. Even in covid chequerboard configuration, sitting at the back of a large, flat room, one can’t see the protagonists at the front except via the Zoom screens. So there is a little bit of loss of involvement. Those at the front, however, joined in with the warm-up exercises and there was lots of arm waving. So, it speaks well of the spirit of the production and the hosting of Tan and Beech that such a warm sense of covid-era kinship is communicated.
This is a brave and beautiful use of the tools of the moment with a very positive and beautiful outcome.
When: 13 and 14 Nov 2020
Where: Adelaide Festival Centre, Quarter Bar