Adelaide Fringe Review: Chasing Smoke

Where: The Factory, Garden of Unearthly Delights
When: Thu 5 Mar – Sun 8 Mar: 7pm, Tues 10 Mar – Sun 15 Mar: 7pm
How much: $30 – $35, tickets here

Chasing Smoke is a youthful, brave and evocative show, challenging the audience to consider what defines an Aboriginal person. The cast of five, Lara Croydon, Ally Humphries, Harley Mann, Dylan Singh and Pearl Thompson are directed by Natano Fa’anana (Polytoxic, Briefs, Casus Circus). As Australia’s only Indigenous contemporary circus ensemble, they bring a unique performance to the Fringe.

This show brings an array of talent. There is acrobatics, juggling, dance, comedy and more. It is acutely obvious from the beginning that these performances are playing to the individual’s strengths. The artists are comfortable in their own elements. They come together intermittently, showing their connection with one another. The repetition of holding each other up was a meaningful and symbolic action throughout the show. The synchronisation of actions showing that some experiences are shared.

Lara Croydon shines as the comic lead. The humour in Chasing Smoke is uncompromising. It ridicules the stereotypes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and comments on White Australia policies. Often uncomfortable, it is equally generous and witty.

The flow of acts lacked some coherency, leaving the audience on their toes. Moments of powerful imagery were replaced swiftly by comic segments, enthusiasm for acrobatics and dance were tempered by stillness in response to vulnerable storytelling. At times this felt a little jarring and disjointed jumping between tones and acts.

The highlight was the personal stories each performer shared throughout Chasing Smoke. A voice recording would narrate to the audience an aspect of culture, background, family or connection to country. Complementing these recordings were moving pieces by the individual performer. The use of juggling was poetic in a story of family. In another story an honest admission about reconnecting with culture set a tone of vulnerability and optimism through dance.

Chasing Smoke ends with a message about the perception of Modern Indigenous identity. This performance is from the heart and is a creative crafting of authenticity worth seeing.

3½ out of 5 stars

— Claudia von der Borch

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