FRINGE THEATRE – A Special Day – Black Box Theatre (Adelaide Botanic Garden) – 5K

Alexander Ewers

The day is May 6 1938. Hitler is arriving in Rome on visit d’Etat and the city is emptying into the streets to celebrate in pomp and spectacle. Her bellicose husband and 6 children having departed for the parade, one housewife remains at home to seek comfort in domestic duties and solitude but an incident with an escaped parrot leads to a chance encounter with a mysterious neighbour. Fortuity, spontaneity and desperation contrive to precipitate an unlikely connection, and for a brief period of time, for one special day, both housewife and neighbour find a temporary respite from the social and political norms that stifle the expression of their true selves.

Based on and closely adherent to Ettore Scola’s masterpiece, Una giornata particolare, A Special Day is  mesmerising theatre. Staged in the Botanic Gardens’ Black Box Theatre,  it transports to an age and an atmosphere now worlds away in time and place, but that for 60 minutes is brought alive again. The materials are simple, almost simplistic: chalk, black walls, a clothes line. But the performance remains engaging, engrossing, with a keen calibre of thespian investment that is evident from the beginning, and is maintained undimmed to the closing scene. Perhaps it is this transportative effect that is the most fitting metric of analysis.  It is a validating feeling to be respected as an audience, to be asked to use the most powerful resource available to actor and audience alike: imagination. Audience participation on this front is encouraged and aided by the refreshingly unpretentious attitude adopted by Ana Graham (playing Antonietta) and Antonio Vega (Gabriele) from the outset. Moments of whimsy, unabashed embracing of prop limitations, the odd nod to the fourth wall – all invite the dismantling of expectations of realism and serve to burnish the vivid world one is asked to enter. It is not a world in a black box, but one created within each mind and therefore enduring, alive, more real than stage or screen.

By sensitive portrayals of nuanced characters, A Special Day proves a delicate rendering of themes that are so often astringently addressed in contemporary theatre. It touches on elements of identity, but rather the freedom to realise the fullness of identity than entanglement in the politics of identity. Both protagonists are yoked to and chained by social and political constraints on the expression of their selves, but a question lingers, extant beyond the historical. How often are self-constraints the real chains that limit the haecceity of being truly ourselves, of being truly alive?

Perhaps today is the day to dance. Today the day to love. Today the day to laugh. Or as Gabriele discovered, perhaps today is the day to live. Because one day, a day when one is free to truly be, a day that may be alone in a lifetime, such a day is indeed a special day.

Kryztoff Rating 5K

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