Anyone looking for experimental, experiential, surreal theatre should not miss Dion this Fringe season.
Kicking off with a verbal waiver on the steps of Rajopolis, Dion puts the audience on their toes right away. After a mix of gentle reassurance (you’ll be fine), boundary setting (don’t touch the actors) and base covering (you might die, but probably not), three audience members hop into a hatch-back and roll into the night for a brilliantly executed, moving and dream-like journey into heartbreak and queer identity.
The stereo pumps as we roll along Adelaide’s streets, introducing us to our driver, writer and director Davina April Wright. She’s silent in the driver’s seat, but chatty on the radio as she sets the scene for the night, talking a bit about life as an artist, and a painful breakup.
In the first kilometre of the journey, one wonders if Dion will be a fly-on-the-wall insight into Davina’s breakup, with scenes in the front seat literally depicting the romance, anger and devastation that go along with it. It’s not. It’s far more beautiful and strange than that.
Dion takes its backseat audience into laneways, carparks and industrial yards in a series of surreal and literal scenes played out by a dedicated and superbly organised cast. The car’s headlights frame many of these scenes, giving them a stark, dream-like quality, while the in-car soundtrack adds vibe with music and context through Wright’s piercing, self-deprecating dialogue.
Highlights include the absurdly funny moment a person dressed as a Christmas pudding eats raspberries out of a punnet, or the crushing scene of a woman bawling her eyes out in a car parked on the side of the road.
At times hilarious and deeply unsettling at others, Dion succeeds in building and releasing tension in its audience over and over again. The backseat perspective adds a cinematic feeling to the action too, with scenes framed by the windscreen, and occasional flashes of feeling that one is inside some kind of indie-film montage. It also forces the audience to reconsider those who inhabit the streets they’re travelling through. Who is a part of the show and who isn’t?
Dion takes its audience on a ride like no one else in this year’s Fringe, and is a must-see for anyone interested in experimental theatre.
Dion was performed at Rajopolis on Friday, February 23 and continues until March 9.
Header image: Davina April Wright and Cazz Bainbridge in Dion (photo: Pier Carthew)