festival: intimate space
And it takes part against the backdrop of the large, never sleeping machine that is the Hilton Hotel.
Restless is a company who create "inclusive work informed by disability" and means that a large number of the performers have some kind of "difference", the most immediately obvious one for a number of them being Down Syndrome.
The experience beings with a great deal of whimsy. And the only people we interacted with were all members of the company. I'm going to keep some of the details vague, but there are certain things I definitely want to remember.
We were greeted by the concierge, who tied baggage check tags around our wrists after asking which of six categories listed we most identified with. At the time I chose "Fancy Free", but afterwards I went back and checked "Sentimental Fool" to go along with it, because it was more apt.
There were only about a dozen people in the audience group, enough to fill a hotel elevator, but not too many to make it really cramped.
Up to a certain point there's no speaking, we have to read signs and hand signals and people's clothing.
The whole introductory section with Ashton Malcolm, Kym McKenzie and Michael Noble was beautifully done to induct us into the world we're about to visit, and when Noble (that's him in the photo) finally leads us off, a little like a sweet and geeky version of the White Rabbit, leading Alice into Wonderland.
We're led through the hotel, from corridor to hotel room, then into the service corridors and the basement, to the blue lit laundry room, along the corridors following giggling staff, then up to the kitchen and out onto the mezzanine overlooking the bar.
The bar scene was the one that really got to me. We were all given headphones as we come out onto the mezzanine and after a number between a man and a woman we're invited to join the woman looking out over the balcony where performers are dotted amongst real hotel bar patrons. I have no idea if anyone warned the visitors what was about to happen, but they do kind of get absorbed into the narrative just by their mere presence in the room.
Then Jianna Georgiou and Alex Luke start to dance together on the stairs, as two people in love. She has a "difference", he does not. As they dance and flirt this looping, overlapping, repeating words and phrases come through the headphones.
"They don't belong together."
That's not all of it, there's a lot of words, all rolling and coiling over each other... in fact, I'm not even sure now if that's actually one of the lines, but that's the message. And it really got to me, because it's always what people who discriminate or want to have power over others say to lessen other people's power and agency. You can do better. He's too good for you. And I teared up. Because, as I mentioned earlier, I am a sentimental fool.
While I have singled out a few people by name, everyone involved did an amazing job, and intersecting with the lives of the real hotel staff and seeing, albeit briefly, the workings of the hotel was incredibly interesting.
The only quibbles I have are really minor ones... firstly the baggage check tags never overtly come into play... yes, I realise they're probably more to identify us as belonging to the production in a fun and quirky way, there was only one spot where Noble checks the tags on everyone, but I'm not sure if the tags made a difference. And on occasions it was difficult to know where to stand or when to follow, so the odd bit of extra direction wouldn't go astray.
But they're very minor issues with an otherwise highly interesting piece.