Adelaide Fringe Review 2021: DIRT

What: DIRT

Where: Holden Street Theatres, The Arch

Tickets: $30, concession $25, available here.

Dates: Sun 21/2 to Sun 21/3

Content warnings and accessibility: discussion of homophobic violence, drug use, mild nudity. Wheelchair accessible.

DIRT is an immensely compelling and upsetting work that explores both the acute violence and insidious shame of homophobia, set against the backdrop of Russia and Chechnya’s purges against LGBTQIA+ people. Two men meet in Moscow: an Australian (Wil King), and a Russian (Patrick Livesey). What starts as a boy-meets-boy one-night-stand narrative develops into something else in a setting where it is technically legal but may as well be illegal to be gay.

DIRT is instead an exploration of the sort of self-policing and constant oppressive fear that typifies life for LGBTQIA+ people in societies ruled by governments that deem their very existence as propaganda. Writer Angus Cameron and director Bronwen Coleman use the short relationship between these two men to explore how idealism and pragmatism clash in these environments. Can one be judged for staying silent, when the price of speaking out is ‘disappearance’? 

This exploration of homophobia, shame, and violence is bolstered by the theatre itself. DIRT is running at Holden Street Theatres in The Arch – a former chapel. Walking into the small church, it is hard not to think of the violence that LGBTQIA+ people face closer to home. $1 from each ticket goes to the Russian LGBT Network, an organisation promoting equal rights and respect for human dignity throughout Russia. 

King and Livesey work wonderfully together: King as the earnest and naive Australian and Livesey as the hardened and suspicious Russian. Their connection is no doubt bolstered by their real-life partnership. 

While DIRT may be a difficult watch at times, it is empathetic and urgent, and certainly an important show this Festival season. 

5 stars – Brydie Kosmina

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