For many who’ve grown up in Australia, the mere concept of a pay-by-the-hour hotel elicits endless curiousity. You pay? By the hour? For a place to have ‘fun’? Not just have ‘fun’? To party? To what?
Collectivist’s first production, Dwell, takes this concept and runs with it. Twists it, turns it, mashes it and destroys it in the best possible way, turning the traditional cabaret into a whole new beast. Similar in concept to HBO’s Room 104, in the world of Dwell’s hotel, anything can and will happen.
Punters to Dwell are checked-in to the ‘rustic’ and ‘charming’ hotel Dwell by the manager, played with delightful, creepy awkwardness by Maddy Grant, crocs and all. Maddy has been honing her clowning skills over a number of years, and this really shines through in her commitment and obsessive love of her favourite room. After she makes sure that everything in her favourite room is ‘just right’, the audience is introduced to a range of hotel’s patrons, all of whom are in need of a place for a short stay to express and explore their true selves and their secret desires.
The scene is set with Regan Henry and Elyse Fitzpatrick’s crowd favourite acro act, ‘The Carni Sutra’ showcasing a couple using the hotel’s services for some spontaneous fun. After the most ‘typical’ use of a pay-by-the-hour hotel, each subsequent ‘guest’ takes the concept and run with it in their own unique, and often twisted, ways. Ellen Grow attempts to find balance in unclean environment, Max Heers takes us on a dance of transformation, Jay & Felix explore the excesses of vanity and Maite Miramontes flips out over her secret obsession. Rachael Gibson’s truly committed cleaner and Maddy’s creepy manager provide the connective tissue between the acts and some of the funniest moments. To say more, would ruin the surprise of how each performer adapts their skill-set to the theme with weird and wonderful results.
In the world of Dwell, the performers express their needs through circus, physical theatre, dance and clowning. There is minimal dialogue and the few times it’s used are to great effect. Words are not necessary though, as all of the cast full commits to expressing their characters and their desires in the physical. This is not traditional circus, by any way, shape or form, and we’re the better for it. The forth wall is firmly in-place and it provides for a more intimate setting for the patrons to glimpse the inner worlds of these wonderful weirdos. Taking away the audience interaction of traditional circus, the performers are able to truly inhabit the worlds of their creations, which takes their acts in new and interesting directions. Jay & Felix were definitely a highlight for their complete commitment to embracing something unique to fit the theme. A few of the performers occasionally struggle with not performing to an audience and not knowing where to direct their energy, but I’m sure this will improve as the session goes on.
Woolloongabba Substation provides a great setting for the Dwell Hotel. It feels familiar and creepy in equal parts. The only downside is the size of the space, and lack of tiered seating. Audience members at the back of the room were unable to see parts of a few acts that had floor work at the front of the stage. The cast noted that they would adapt both the seating and staging of those acts for the rest of the season though.
In Dwell, Collectivist have created a beautifully simple concept with endless possibilities that could easily be toured and reset with a rotating cast. The cast take us on an intimate dive into the worlds of some beautifully weird creations with equal parts humour, pathos and skills. I can’t wait to check-in again when they next have a vacancy.