Creative masterminds Geoff Cobham and Ross Ganf explain their temporary Fringe venue/nation, Surrender.
Surrender is created by local arts figures Geoff Cobham and Ross Ganf, who were responsible for Barrio and a plethora of other Adelaide Festival evening playgrounds. But unlike previous Festival clubs – such as the aforementioned Barrio, Lola’s Pergola, The Persian Garden and Red Square – Surrender isn’t part of the Adelaide Festival. It is instead a Fringe venue, kind of, but unlike other Spiegel-style venues such as The Garden of Unearthly Delights and Gluttony; Surrender will not be a place to catch a variety of shows in tents. As with Barrio, it will be a place for visitors to immerse themselves in the craziness and to play. Surrender will see Ganf and Cobham push the creative envelope when it comes to evening arts hubs. Cobham worked on all the Adelaide Festival clubs from RedSquare in 1996 to Barrio in 2012/13. The famed theatre set and lighting designer was a recipient of a Churchill Fellowship in 2010 and travelled to Europe to study participatory theatre (where the audience is also the performance) and Barrio was where Ganf and Cobham (among others) perfected participatory club theatre. But, in their words, “Barrio was a suburb,Surrender is a country”. And what a country it proposes to be. Featuring an ‘Abbott Proof Fence’ and the dictator Doctor Ya Ya as its leader, Surrender is Barrio taken to another level. “Barrio became a destination rather than the previous roles of clubs being a place to go before and after shows,” says Ganf. “Suddenly you had something that was intellectually [stimulating] but also entertainment. It was home made; created by artists in Adelaide. We want to create something that people can come all night to we’re not in competition with other things in the program. We are our own program. “Barrio was the big success where we were using a lot of the theatre techniques we’d develop together and just transposed them into the club and it was a better environment for it,” he continues. “Artistically it was a more successful environment. So with Surrender, when the Festival chose not to do a Festival club this year, we decided to – with this 18- year legacy Geoff has with creating these spaces, and my more recent one – to create our own and seek private funding to do it and take that mantle.” For the venue, based in the InterContinental Plaza by the River Torrens, the pair received private funding from Sidewood Wines and the winery’s owner Owen Inglis to bring Surrender to life. “We’d both been to MONA recently, and came back from MONA going, ‘There has to be a rich man here’,” says Cobham. “There has to be someone with money in Adelaide interested in the arts, and the ideas that we have. We asked around, and through a contact of Ross’s came up with one phone number of a man called Owen Inglis from Sidewood Wines. We went and pitched the ideas to him in a meeting, and he went, ‘Yeah, okay’.” With Surrender, and creating this micronation as a club, the pair is running with the idea that, politically, Australia is in an unsavoury place at the moment and with Surrender you can emigrate to the micronation to escape the so-called lucky country. “The only way to have a good time in Australia at the moment is to leave the country and come to our country,” says Cobham. “People are so taken by that. We have this concept of an ‘Abbott Proof Fence’ around the outside [of Surrender] and people just can’t get enough of that. I’ve had architects throwing themselves at me to work on it because they want to be involved in something political. They want to protest.” “I was at the pub the other day,” says Ganf, “and someone said, ‘It’s going to be really political. Are you worried about the politics of it?’ When have art and politics not been bedfellows?” In Doctor Ya Ya, Surrender has a leftwing dictator as the micro-nation’s leader. Credit: Alice Healy “Doctor Ya Ya is a bit like Kurtz at the end [of Apocalypse Now], beyond civilisation, beyond the horror – there he is just presiding,” says Ganf. “Every country needs a leader and Doctor Ya Ya is our leader and he’s going to lead his people to the promised land.” “He’s also gathering a ministry around him,” says Cobham. “He’s looking for 12 ministers to preside over his country. He’s got an opening for the Minister for Teeth, the Minister for Space, I’m the Minister for Things That Go Up.” Each night’s entertainment will be themed around a minister’s portfolio. “It’s about unpacking it when you arrive, you know it’s going to be awesome but you don’t know what’s in there every night,” says Cobham. “We’ll let them know, as the day before the Minister will make an announcement. There will be a press release and then people will work out what they’re going to do that night. There’ll be all the kinds of things we did in Barrio, there’ll be lots of dressing up and those sorts of crazy things.” Surrender Friday, February 20 to Sunday, March 15 (Fridays to Sundays, 6pm to 2am) InterContinental Hotel Plaza surrenderclub.com.au Photography by Alice Healy