The Dead Ones [part of 2011 Feast Festival]


Presented by Margie Fischer and Vitalstatistx
Reviewed Wednesday 16th November 2011

Venue: Higher Ground, 9-15 Light Square, Adelaide
Season: to Sat 26th November various days and times, see the Feast web site for details
Duration: 1hr
Tickets: adult $20/conc or Club Feast $15
Bookings: FEASTiX 8463 0684 or at the door

Faced with clearing out the family home in East Lindfield, ready to be sold following the death of the last of her family, Margie Fischer began to make notes about many of the things that she found in the process. Her notes included memories raised by objects, her feelings about them, what they meant to her and her family, historical references and more. Forty years of accumulated belongings and memoirs took months of work to clear and brought up a myriad feelings and memories. She later assembled those notes and this production is the result. Standing to one side at a lectern, reading from a folder, her extremely personal documentary is accompanied by a slide-show.

This is a production that is hard to label. It is not a typical theatrical performance. Aside from the content, it is somewhat reminiscent of those pre-television era talks, on an enormous range of topics, that one might have heard in a church hall. That seems rather appropriate, as Fischer takes us back to Austria during the war, when her Jewish parents left and travelled to China as refugees, where they lived for ten years. Her father's parents also escaped but her mother's family were all killed.

Eventually, they came to Australia, and her grandfather built the house at Lindfield in which Fischer and her extended family lived. Her father set up a very successful furniture making business, which he ran well into his seventies. Her brother was expected to take over the business, but he died at the age of 22 and so the business was sold.

Not all of us are Austrian Jews, who faced the holocaust. Not all of us fled our homes with almost nothing. There are, however, personal links for all of us scattered within these stories, perhaps of our own parents' parts in the war, and their parents, perhaps our own migrations to Australia, in whatever way that might have been, perhaps in our own loss of family members, perhaps even in clearing the family home of decades of accumulation, when you are the last of the family line.

Aside from the powerful tale that Fischer has to tell of her own family, there are common links to the lives of many of us that will move those who attend and Kathryn Sproul's simple but elegant staging and Catherine Fitzgerald's light touch in the direction keep the focus on the narrative and the images.

I am not convinced that Edelweiss was quite the right music for the show, especially when it prompted people in the audience to sing along at the close of the production as Fischer was lighting candles to honour her family. That aside, this is a very moving, informative and thought provoking hour that will stay with you for a long time.

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.

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