Checking in with the exclusive group of ten guests who are about to share an Intimate Space is a stylised and pleasant experience. The lobby of Adelaide’s Hilton Hotel is like that of an old chum you haven’t seen in a while; there’s something a little different, but it will take some time and a keen eye, to work out what it is. Some choices need to be made, and some waiting done, but as cast members loiter, hiding in plain sight, we start to wonder, are we at the show, or in the show?
The concierges who initiate our journey are perfectly cast. Ashton Malcolm’s warmth immediately puts us at ease, and Kym McKenzie and Michael Noble’s meticulous performances where attention to detail is crucial are well considered, cheeky and perfectly paced in a distracting environment.
We are 17 floors above Victoria Square, and already a little disorientated, before a piece of abandoned luggage presents as a seemingly impossible prop. Here, Darcy Carpenter is magnetic and endearing in a scene that is surprising, unsettling, and delightful. Around the corner, room 1721 reveals a fantastically staged duet at which we view an intimate moment, and confirm how we feel about voyeurism.
Lorcan Hopper and Chris Dyke in Intimate Space. Photo © Shane Reid
Chris Dyke and Lorcan Hopper shine as the frenetic and tumultuous laundry workers, accompanied by Jason Sweeney’s powerful music and Geoff Cobham’s filmic lighting. The amazing backdrop here adds to the sentiment, made more powerful by the overwhelming and evocative smell of clean sheets.
Driving us through the basement corridors, Kathryn Adams and Abby Hampton’s characters are likeable and funny, and then suddenly, the polar opposite. This sequence, revealing the unpleasant side of making assumptions, is commendable. Rachel High’s wordless vignette is a highlight, with danger, humour and an astonishing setting. The access the hotel has allowed is remarkable.
This performance creates spaces that are at times so intimate, it threatens discomfort, but this is perhaps the point. High personal eye and hand contact pierce the relational expectation of performer to audience, as we are invited to look twice, think differently and question everything. The dynamics of our decad have changed by the close. We have been shown our common ground.
Jianna Georgiou and Alex Luke in Intimate Space. Photo © Shane Reid
Unique to this show are the revelations that can only come from an up close and personal tour through the bowels of the Hilton. Fun facts gleaned include that there are four VIPs in the hotel today, all the vacuum bags in the cleaners are to be changed this week, and the old Gideon bibles are to be swapped with a shipment of new red replacements. (Does this dispel the myth that they always look so new because no one uses them?)
Intimate Space is light on dialogue, but the profundities are loud and clear; there are big messages in these small vignettes, and beyond. Hotel patrons walk through scenes either without knowing they are in a performance space, or by awkwardly trying to avoid attention, thereby making themselves more conspicuous.
There’s not a weak link in this ensemble. Behind the action, the execution is flawless; an incredible feat considering the bewildering logistics of assembling and running this show in an operating hotel. As we travel, music appears seamlessly, lighting directs us on or out, and props appear when needed. Costuming is detailed and cleverly aids with some of the trickery.
The brevity of the vignettes does not result in easy digestion; part of the reason this show is so successful. Not a single second of the performance is pedestrian, or immaterial. Packed with coruscating wit, we are deliberately, expertly and wonderfully misled throughout, and it’s provocative, entertaining and outstanding. The finale is exceptional; ingeniously further blurring the lines between performers, audiences, the blindingly unaware and the blissfully ignorant. Promisingly, the majority of onlookers appear to be delighted to witness something akin to a flash mob (without the exhibitionism).
Innovative, potent, bold and beautiful, Intimate Space is an extraordinary and highly entertaining experience. Director Michelle Ryan paints the Hilton canvas with myriad subtleties, leaving us with concepts that are full to bursting with complexities. This is not a book you can judge by its cover; which seems to be the wonderful point.