Adelaide Festival 2021 Review: Small Metal Objects

Who: Production by Back to Back Theatre , directed by Bruce Gladwin

What: Open-air theatre

When: until March 8, see website for details and ticketing information

Where: Moseley Square, Glenelg

Small Metal Objects is a refreshingly human, genuinely exciting and compassionate piece of theatre, executed admirably well.  I was initially drawn to the show by its open-air setup; the performers emerge from and interact with the public in Moseley Square while the audience sits on one end of the square in a tiered seating bank. Each seat is equipped with a set of headphones through which audience members hear the actors’ dialogue as well as well-timed segments of ambient music.

Before I get to the efficacy of this arrangement, a bit about Back to Back Theatre and the narrative of Small Metal Objects. Back to Back is driven by an ensemble of actors who draw on their insight as people with ‘disabilities’ to create shows that comment on how the marginalised in our societies experience aspects of life. In Small Metal Objects, Gary and Steve, two friends who would usually escape notice, have arranged to meet two hotshot executives for a transaction. As the intensity of this situation unfolds, issues of respect, communication and understanding between the two groups are illuminated.

As an avid people-watcher, I was intrigued to see how the performers utilised the square and interacted with their environment. It was genuinely fun and exhilarating to spot the actors emerging from and moving amongst the public. This approach greatly highlighted the real-world nature of the subject matter, and the actors themselves delivered their parts incredibly naturally. This was assisted by clever, touching writing. Interactions with the public and adjacent businesses also offered wonderful comedic relief. Watching the skaters, families and joggers pass by provided a poetic element, highlighting the artistic beauty of everyday life while also creating genuine experiences of connection as passers-by realised they were part of the show. The urban backdrop also brought forth the anonymity one experiences in a city, and alluded to the idea of using productivity as a measure of one’s worth.

The headphones setup worked relatively seamlessly, though there was one moment where I was unsure whether there had been a tech issue or dialogue was left intentionally unheard. This didn’t significantly affect my experience of the show and in fact I think the mic setup enabled the actors to perform as naturally as they did. I highly recommend Small Metal Objects for a unique and moving theatrical experience.

4 out of 5 stars

Katerina Grypma

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