Never Did Me Any Harm – 2012 Adelaide Festival

This superb production looks at a plethora of views on what being a good or bad parent means, what discipline means, whether corporal punishment is as bad as we are told or whether, as one man says, “it never did me any harm”



Presented by Force Majeure and Sydney Theatre Company in association with Adelaide Festival and Adelaide Festival Centre
Reviewed Wednesday 14th March 2012

This dance theatre work was inspired by The Slap, the award winning novel by Christos Tsiolkas. Force Majeure's Artistic Director, Kate Champion, and members of the company conducted a series of interviews to get a wide range of people's views on parenting, and some of those results are repeated word for word in the performance and are used as a source to create the multitude of characters in the piece.

The very realistic setting for the action, designed by Geoff Cobham, is a suburban back garden surrounded by an old wooden fence, in some need of urgent repair. A garden shed is in one corner, a tree provides shade, a large lawn area takes up most of the garden, and children's toys are scattered about to provide hazards for the unwary.

Within this space the seven marvellously inventive and versatile performers, Kristina Chan, Vincent Crowley, Marta Dusseldorp, Alan Flower, Tracy Mann, Kirstie McCracken, and Josh Mu, play a wide variety of characters, from children to parents, and even an older person with no children recalling his own childhood. We see examples of many ways in which adults and parents interact with children, both good and bad relationships, as well as the reverse, the ways children treat their parents and other adults.

Champion's direction has resulted in a series of smooth transitions between the various segments and brought out many differing opinions, raised a lot of questions and left the audience to contemplate what answers there may be, whether current thinking is on the right track, or even if there are any definitive answers.

The performance combines contemporary dance, movement and acting, with both live and recorded monologues. Cobham's lighting and Max Lyandvert's music and sound design, however, are equally a part of the production. The play begins in darkness which slowly has sharp lines of light growing into full light and revealing a couple. The recorded voices are played out in movement by the couple, looking rather like exaggerated body language and gestures. The humour in this work was already indicated, letting the audience know that laughing at appropriate moments is permissible.

It is not all light and humorous, though, as many aspects of being a parent are questioned. A great many questions are raised, which makes many people ask how and where does one learn to be a parent other than by watching your own parents as you grow up, and perhaps those of your friends. To become a teacher in South Australia one goes through all the normal schooling and completes a university degree, and then must complete a two year postgraduate degree in teaching,with a focus on behaviour management and other interpersonal communication. Only then may a teacher be allowed to interact with children. Parents, however, only need to know how to procreate.

Physical chastisement is now considered a bad thing and is condemned but there is an argument that, since it was banned, children have lost all respect for adults, one another and even themselves. It is a minefield, and in a multicultural country, parenting, that hideous new term that opens a Pandora's Box in relationships, means vastly different things to different people.

This superb production looks at a plethora of views on what being a good or bad parent means, what discipline means, whether corporal punishment is as bad as we are told or whether, as one man says, “it never did me any harm”. This is a thought provoking work that engages anybody who is, or has been a parent and, in fact, anybody who has been a child or had children in their care, which means everybody.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

Adelaide Festival – Never Did Me Any Harm

Venue: Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre, King William Road, Adelaide
Season: to Sat 17th March 2012
Duration: 65min
Tickets: $30 to $49
Bookings: BASS 131 246, BASS outlets, or online

Artist talk
 post 2pm show on stage Sat 17 Mar

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