By Lynn Jackson
COLD WAR, presented by MKA+Doppgangster in partnership with the RCC as part of this year’s Adelaide Fringe is a chaotic, intentioned and frantic assault to the senses. The clear, strong influences of 1970s and 80s punk is evident, and the performers certainly live up to the MKA values, aiming to provoke discussion and dialogue through explicit politics and adventurous contemporary work.
This was clearly a production that had high aspirations but was still finding its feet in this incarnation. Through a blend of direct address, observational dialogue and original musical compositions, the cast of two presented their ideas with force and passion. Audience members were greeted by a masked performer, handing out pieces of ice, but were somewhat perturbed as they dripped and melted in their hands through the opening of the show. This show suffered in atmosphere due to the chosen venue – the flip out, red felted seats and the polished wood, thrust stage of the Little Theatre did not create the atmosphere for subversive theatre, and the audience clearly felt distanced from the performers. Set design also suffered due to the festival-speed changeover between shows in this venue, so anarchic slogans were not painted on wall, rather on posters hanging from a rail, undermining the effect somewhat. The use of bleak white and black in the design did have some visual impact, and the combination of a smoke machine haze and a persistent, audio drone did create some sense of the underground subculture that this show perhaps needed. The audience were encouraged to join the performers on stage to dance as the show began, and while there were some willing, most of the audience declined, preferring the safety of the auditorium and its fourth wall.
The performers, Tobias Manderson-Galvin and Aquilla Sorensen, were clearly impassioned by the ideas they presented. The disjointed and surrealistic ideas were presented with thought-provoking asides and questions to one another, though at times the audio levels presented challenges in clarity. Most effective were the forceful, energetic lyrics of protest, delivered at top volume which filled the theatre. Surreal moments, such as the blindfolding of an audience member who was then inexplicably baptised with snow machine suds created moments of visual impact. The challenge of this production was audience buy-in – and when the passion wasn’t reciprocated by the perhaps too-well-behaved crowd, the performers seemed to struggle to maintain their anarchic, cool demeanours, occasionally remonstrating with the crowd when they didn’t receive the response they expected. This show needed a younger activist audience – which is a challenge perhaps at a Fringe venue that is perceived as more expensive and exclusive. The show has potential to inspire but just struggled to soar.
MKA+Doppgangster are a company to watch, as their creativity and passion for theatre outside the box is evident in this show, and in the clearly fervent and energetic creators of this piece, which unfortunately has just missed the mark at the RCC.