Presented by Emily Steel
Reviewed 3rd March 2017
A woman in a ruched bright red one-piece swimsuit smiles at us through the glass door that separates us from the pool room. She mimes removing shoes. We comply. As we enter, bags are left at the far end of the long rectangular pool, and we’re ushered, barefoot and silent, to the other end. We sit on one side of the aqua-tiled pool, deep in the basement of the historic Adina Treasury Apartment building. The front row audience sits right on the edge, with their feet in the water. The second row sits on benches behind them. The woman in the swimsuit smiles and starts to tell her story. She is instantly engaging. It feels as if she’s confiding her experiences to each one of us individually, telling closely-held personal truths in as honest and clear a way as she can. Seventy-five minutes go by. We leave, changed. This is what theatre is about.
To say that “19 Weeks’ tells the story of an abortion is to minimise its scope and its potential. It’s about hope, human decency, fear, rage, compassion, confidence and empathy. And it’s not a women’s show. It’s a show for humans.
The protagonist, Emily, is performed by magical actor Tiffany Lyndall Knight, she of the red swimsuit. The director and designer is Daisy Brown. These two have, between them, devised multiple unexpected ways to use the pool and its surroundings in order to maximise the theatrical impact of their narrative. Knight stands on the side of the pool, slides into the water, then out of it; she swims, dives, crashes headlong into the water, sits in a floating round inflatable seat which is tethered (much like an umbilicus) to the bottom of the pool. The continuing physical dynamic between the actor and the water is mesmerising. We soon get over the sheer novelty of seeing an actor speak while standing in water up to her armpits. What Knight says – and how she says it – is far too compelling. Which brings me to the writing.
The writer is Emily Steel. She has also produced this show. Her writing is splendidly spare, clear and unapologetically honest. Language is matter-of-fact, with a mildly medical flavour. It‘s just the way intelligent people who read up about their health issues tend to speak. Much editing must have happened to achieve the clarity and immediacy of this script. Complementary original music, by Mario Späte, is brilliant, with sound levels judged to a nicety.
However, the strongest elements of this new theatre work are Steele’s sinewy, warm script, and Knight’s impeccable acting skill. I wish I could give this show six stars – it excels in every way.
PS – Mascara manufacturers will love this show.
Reviewed by Pat. H. Wilson
Rating out of 5: 5 – Luminous
Venue: Adina Basement Pool at Adina Apartment Hotel Adelaide Treasury
Season: 3rd – 18th March 2017
Duration: 75 minutes
Tickets: Full Price: $23 – $28