Adelaide Festival

Adelaide Festival Review: Guttered

Guttered presents its audience with creative choreography that is beautifully executed within the immersive and unusual stage of a local bowling alley

Creative choreography that’s beautifully executed - an insightful and immersive theatre production
4

Presented by Restless Dance Theatre

Reviewed 26 February 2021

Guttered presents its audience with creative choreography that is beautifully executed within the immersive and unusual stage of a local bowling alley, while also communicating important messages from those who live with a disability regarding independence and self-growth.

It’s not every day you head to a suburban bowling alley to watch a theatrical dance performance, but this creative choice of venue truly transports the audience to a different world – one that may not be familiar to them, but that is just as important to understand. Instead of hard plastic booths there are leather couches and cushioned benches and as the show begins, audience members are invited up to have a bowl. Everyone is included and given the same opportunity.

As the lanes quieten, the dancers pick up their retro bowling bags and offer audience members to put their ears up to them. When leaning in closely, small and soft voices can be heard coming from the bags, sentences with no power behind them. Then, the dancing begins – contemporary moves in both solo and group routines are placed against the funky backdrop of bowling alley lanes, as pulsating pink lights illuminate the arranged pins at the end of the long alleys and shadows mimic the performer’s moves like large, black back-up dancers. A fluoro bowling ball with a mind of its own also makes an enjoyable appearance and a very tightly choreographed group routine against the bowling alley counter is particularly entertaining. As the production is set in a real life bowling alley, there are no dedicated stage lights, and this has been innovatively and effectively addressed through the use of some dancers utilising small hand-lights to spotlight other dancers.

The metaphors within Guttered are clear, immersing able-bodied audience members into a different world, one in which there are so many protections in place that people living with a disability are not able to truly live their life and make their own mistakes, something that we know can be a powerful trigger for self-growth. As the audience watches dancers bowling, some are forcefully made to use a ramp to bowl which they simply do not need. As they push back and reject this form of “help”, their “helper” only gets more and more frustrated, pushing the ramp even more forcefully upon them. Another scenario presents the uncomfortable, but necessary image of two smaller dancers being forcefully hugged, touched and grasped at by bigger dancers behind them. Their mouths covered, their bodies directed where to go and then placed in hugs that turn into forceful headlocks, demonstrating the controlling and smothering effect that fearfully protective love and care can have.

Towards the end of the production, the small voices emitted softly from the retro bowling bags now echo powerfully throughout the alley; “don’t call me cute”, “yes, I’m determined”, “I’m not always happy”, “I’m fine on my own thanks”. These dancers have found their voices and speak these words with confidence – their mistakes and disappointments – their “gutter-balls” – have given them strength, and just like many others in the world, they have become stronger as a result.

The carefully choreographed solo and group routines are backed by a soundtrack of slower, softer music as well as notably energetic, up-beat electric songs that could have been pulled from the latest Tron film. Combining with the curated music are the background noises of the bowling alley around the corner where victorious yells and defeated gasps can be heard, adding to the immersion of the experience.

The only disappointment of the night was discovering the de-funding of Restless Dance Theatre – the imaginative company who have brought Guttered to life. This is a truly devastating hit to one of Australia’s leading creative dance companies who work with dancers with or without a disability. Not only will this mean that audiences could lose fabulous productions like Guttered, but, even more devastatingly, many within the company will find themselves without the spark of joy that Restless Dance Theatre provides them as a creative and emotional outlet, and a place to hone their skills.

Guttered immerses its audience into a different world, one where they may not find themselves often – if at all – as it explores a topic important to those who live with a disability. The production provides a voice to those who otherwise may not elsewhere have a platform, and is an important piece of theatrical dance in this year’s theatre line-up.

Reviewed by Georgina Smerd

Venue: Kingpin Norwood, 11 Osmond Terrace, Norwood, SA

Season: 26th February – 14th March 2021

Duration: 60 mins

Tickets: $25 – $59

Bookings: https://www.adelaidefestival.com.au/events/guttered/

Rating out of 5: 4

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