Belt Up Theatre @ Adelaide College of the Arts – Tiny Lounge
2:00pm, Sat 10 Mar 2012
A quick glance at my watch after Two Points of Reality saw me ringing for a cab and scooting back to AC Arts with minutes to spare before the start of Outland, Belt Up Theatre’s other production this Fringe. A frantic dash to locate the impromptu ticket office ensued, and – as I sank into an armchair in the Tiny Lounge – I was gloating a little, thinking that I’d just managed to sneak in an extra show that I’d have initially thought unlikely.
Whilst the layout of the Tiny Lounge was familiar from The Boy James, and the cast from that show are all physically recognisable, Outland is a very different beast. Using the life and work of Lewis Carroll as a basis, Outland seems to blend the “real” world of Carroll with that of the Outland (as found in his Sylvie & Bruno fictional universe).
Because, let’s face it, Outland is confusing as fuck.
Here’s what I can figure: Charles (Dodgson… “Lewis Carroll” was a nom de plume) exists in a “real” world, with his associates Arthur and Murial (who are also characters in one of the Sylvie & Bruno stories… look, I’m barely hanging on, here). However, Charles’ epilepsy drops him from the “real” world to a “dream” world that contains the Outland, Wonderland, and Elfland. In this dream world, Arthur and Murial become the childlike sprites Bruno and Sylvie… and also play double-duty as the Sub-Warden and his Wife, as parts of the Conspiracy in Outland are played out. A magical cape also appears at some point, possibly transporting characters into their opposing worlds…
Of course, I could (or, rather, do) have that synopsis completely arse-about: dream could be real, or both could be wrong, or something else… following the logical threads (if, indeed, there are any) isn’t something that is required to enjoy Outland. It’s possible to just revel in the spectacle of the production – the visually lush Tiny Lounge is used to full effect, with fantastic direction ensuring that everyone in the audience got a great view of proceedings as they were presented in the round. The performances are all thoroughly wonderful, with all three actors flitting between their multiple characters convincingly, and there’s some minor audience interaction – punters are plucked from the audience to play (embarrassment-free) ancillary roles; at one stage, Charles grabbed my feet and examined my shoes in detail, proclaiming them to be “special horizontal weather boots”.
For all the confusion that Outland projects upon the audience, it also offers a lot in exchange – not least of which are some of Carroll’s ideals. Worlds are gifts from God, he suggests, encouraging us… no, daring us to daydream as adults, to create spectacular worlds in our minds. And that’s a pretty special gift… and one that’s gratefully received.