By Regan Baker
During a challenging time for artists across the globe and with COVID running rampant across state lines I feel so incredibly lucky that Brisbane Festival has been able to proceed with a wealth of local talent at the helm. Tonight’s performance has taken me back to one of my most frequented, and possibly one of my favourite Australian venues, the Brisbane Powerhouse. With its exposed red bricks, graffiti laden walls and stained concrete flooring, the Powerhouse Theatre could not have been a more perfect venue for the highly talented team from Polytoxic to erect their construction site for Demolition.
From the moment I walked through the doors the sense of being on a true-blue Aussie worksite could not be escaped. With a three-tiered scaffold, witches hats, a boombox blaring 80’s hits and a cast of tradies standing around doing a whole lot of nothing, it truly felt like any site I’ve ever been to. The creative decision to have a live set as the doors opened helped build the atmosphere and the hype of what we were about to witness. The cast interacted with the crowd as they entered, the music built the energy levels, and the score of welders, hammers and general construction noise set the scene beautifully.
In an interview with ABC News Co-Director Leah Shelton described Demolition as being “Kind of like a protest party, meets construction site, meets massive celebration and reclamation of public space,” and every sentiment of that holds true in the themes that were delivered in tonight’s performance. Shelton and fellow Co-Director Lisa Fa’alafi constructed the show to bring the small acts of self-preservation that are undertaken by so many women and other marginalised groups (trans, non-binary, etc) front of mind and out of the (literal) shadows. You know the moments I’m talking about - those fears experienced while walking home late at night with your house keys at the ready and your thumb hovering over the ‘call’ button on your phone. Of what it feels like to be cat-called, or discriminated against or racially segregated at work. The story was written in such a brilliant way as to emphasise these fears which were perpetrated through an overture of male voices; politicians, news readers and people in a position of power. It didn’t need to be explicitly said. The message of social injustice and the call to action to stand up for inequality and call out unsafe behaviour was clear, powerful and to the point.
As well as being a fantastic director, Fa’alafi also starred as tonight’s Emcee alongside the fearless and hilarious Ghenoa Gela. The energy generated by these two powerhouse performers was that of a 20V DeWalt 996 Powerdrill. I haven’t done a day of hard labour in my life, so I have no idea what that actually means, but I’ve been told that thing is powerful! Their humour was on theme and even the simple elements like utilising an empty Icebreak bottle as a microphone sleeve added to the theatre of the performance. There were so many elements thrown into Demolition that made it such an enjoyable show. From dance numbers performed in and around a tradies ute, to high-vis street signs being stripped back to reveal reflex strike bags beneath, every element of the show was well thought out to stick to message and to theme.
Throughout the evening we were delighted with a spectacle of amazing feats performed by multi-talented local and international artists, which Fa’alafi described as “Being a chance to really show all our party tricks.” Leah Shelton took to the pole for a dazzling routine that combined comedy with incredible strength and fitness prowess. To keep to theme, she of course had to take a break half way through to inhale a kebab and have a quick spew, highlighting the in-depth thought process of the creative team and their worksite knowledge.
Mayu Moto took to the sky and performed an incredible routine on the aerial rope showcasing grace and power. Her years of acrobatic performance shone as she swiftly and seamlessly moved the rope around her body and performed countless drops and dances in the air. Demolition wasn’t just about acts of strength however, it was also about those of beauty and rhythm. Ghenoa Gela lead a choreographed fight for your life style boxing routine on the strike bags to underpin the necessity of women to be able to defend themselves in times of danger. It was beautifully performed, though not quite in synch, and re-highlighted the importance of their overall messaging. There were also several dance elements throughout the night to break up the aerial acts and allow a moments reprieve for the audience to absorb everything that was happening on stage.
The atmosphere, energy and immersive nature of Demolition leans heavily on the stunning lighting design by Jason Glenwright, which created an incredible range of moods throughout the evening. Combined with the music production of Kim Bowers (in collaboration with Lisa Fa’alafi and Leah Shelton), the show bounced between dark and ominous tones, to high energy electric power performance with ease.
In short, every element of Demolition worked so beautifully together to create an empowering, energetic and engaging masterpiece of performance social activism. Whether you are into acrobatic aerials, pole dancing, comedy, burlesque, cabaret, you name it – this show has it all! Brilliantly executed and a night well worth the pennies!