Review: Adelaide Festival Theatre and WOMADelaide

On my annual pilgrimage to Adelaide for Adelaide Festival, Adelaide Writers Week and WOMADelaide, there was so much to see I’ve milked a couple of weeks worth of blogs from it. I had only been there a little over twenty four hours and my brain had already been thoroughly exercised.

Being immersed in a diversity of creative arts of all kinds provides inspiration and motivation for writing. This blog covers the theatre I attended and WOMADelaide music festival.

The Doctor By Robert Icke

The Doctor starring Juliet Stevenson, is an adaptation, by Robert Icke, of the play by Viennese dramatist, short story writer and novelist Arthur Schnitzler’s 1912 production Professor Bernhardi, a portrait of antisemitism.

The adaptation broadens out the focus of the play to be about identity politics (gender, sexuality, race and class), ethics (medical, religious, parental) and power dynamics. The director extended the issues and really messed with the audiences head, perceptions and biases by casting women as men, white people as black and black as white.

The protagonist Ruth Wolff is a Alzheimer’s medical practitioner and secular Jew. She prevents a priest seeing a fourteen year old girl dying of sepsis as the result of a self administered abortion. He was called by the parents but the girl is not in a state to decide for herself if she wants to see the priest. The incident goes viral and provokes a petition and TV debates, that jeopardise Ruth’s career and the medical institutes funding. ‘The incident’ itself had some of the qualities of The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas in its impact.

All the characters in the play claim righteousness in their own positions and all are shown to be potentially compromised by their own characteristics or beliefs. The playwright employs an exquisitely torturous interrogation of the use and misuse of language, and the play was an exhausting, mind bending, and brilliantly performed piece of theatre that I will be pondering for some time. If you ever get a chance, go and see it.

Dimanche by Chaliwaté and Focus

The Belgian theatre production Dimanche (meaning Sunday) was both beautiful and harrowing. The almost wordless performance was delivered through the mediums of film, acting, sound and puppetry and depicts three friends tracking and filming the cataclysmic impacts of climate change.

It begins with three filmmakers journeying in an imaginary truck to the arctic to document the breakup of ice flows. Only two survive the experience and we cut to life size polar bear puppets on a futile search for food as their habitat disintegrates. The set switches to a couple living with an elderly relative in extreme heat. As they swelter under fans, the furniture melts, and eventually the elderly woman succumbs to the elements.

With each new scene, another of the friends falls victim to the impacts of climate change until the final scene which depicts the world under water. It was a stunning piece of theatre, precisely executed. I am very glad I went to see it despite leaving feeling like a frog in a slowly boiling pot of water.


WOMAD is a four day music, arts and dance festival held in Adelaide’s shady Botanic Park and a chance to immerse oneself in what feels like a parallel universe. Around 20,000 people per day and hundreds of artist from around the world gather each day to celebrate the diversity or music and arts with performances across eight stages scattered through the park.

My favourites included music by The Blind Boys of Alabama, Tami Neilson, Mavis Staples and Spinifex Gum; acrobatic performance by Gravity and Other Myths; and climate talks by Cristiana Figures the former UN Secretary for Climate and reflections on climate optimism by film maker Damon Gameau, scientist Will Steffen, environmental lawyer Michelle Lim and Adelaide Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor.

I departed Adelaide full of creative inspiration and having done some internal plotting and written a few scenes for my next novel, which will have an environmental theme and be set partly in Melbourne, partly in East Gippsland. Watch this space.

Theatre images from the internet