Adelaide Festival. Samara Hersch. Secret Locations. 11 Mar 2022
The critic’s role flies to the four winds for this Festival production. While art experiences are always personal, in this case they are many-personal and no-two-the-same personal. They are one-on-one with different people. They are tailored to each individual.
Once tickets are issued for Sex, Death and the Internet, the ticket-holder is asked to supply a photograph of themselves.
The location of the performance is not revealed until nearer the performance time.
In this case, Adelaide University’s Union Building was chosen and very well signposted, thank heavens.
Inside its 4th floor corridor, Festival staff members meet and greet, checking vaccine status and leading ticket-holders to a series of well-spaced chairs beside which freshly-sanitised headphones and a boxes of tissues lie on small tables. Why the tissues, I ask. Some people find the encounters emotional. They’re different, you might laugh or cry, I was told. Put on the headphones and press play. The recording lasts about six minutes.
And thus, for this critic at least, the voices of children were to be heard answering questions about their ages and how they feel about being children and what ages are ideal. This grandmother was charmed. It is a nice tidbit which reminds us to respect the innate wisdom of the very young.
One is then led to another area and another chair. One is asked to remove shoes, if able. Pleasant conversation and instructions are imparted by one of the Samara Hersch production team. It is soothing and personable.
Following said instructions, a long, black velvet curtain is parted and one steps into a very long space wherein everything is black except for a broad white plastic pathway leading brightly to a desk, a chair and a computer screen. Box of tissues. Notepad. Pen. How thoughtful.
Two photographs are on the screen. One is the photo I was asked to supply of myself taken a few decades ago, the other is another woman, also taken a few decades ago. Another woman appears live on the screen.
Delia. I like her immediately.
She is all my favourite things. Like me, she is grandmother vintage. She is attired in the colour of women’s power with purple-rimmed glasses, purple clothes, amethyst necklace and pleasantly unruly short hair.
She instructs me on the cards which appear to one side of the screen and how to shuffle and show cards. We are to take turns in doing this and answering questions shown on the card. Thereafter we have a 30-minute exchange telling each other how we feel about sex, death, and life experiences. We do not discuss the internet albeit we are using it in this Facetime-like live interaction.
It is just like sitting down and talking to a friend. It is frank and unhurried, despite its timeline. The “show” has a 40-minute duration.
So, what is it all about?
You may well ask.
I am a very seasoned netizen. I have met a lot of people online since it was first possible in the pioneer days of the CU-SeeMe, the application which preceded Skype which preceded Facetime.
The interactive program used for this encounter employs question cards which are read by one player and then flicked to be visible to the other player, and is effective for that purpose.
Its purpose includes confiding in a stranger and exploring one’s own response to crucial questions. Some of them are a bit confronting. But, for me, Delia’s frankness about herself, her gentle face, her ready smile, and easy laugh were encouragements to respond in a similarly uninhibited way. I learned quite a lot about Delia, but never enough. I so badly wanted to ask my own questions of her. But I stuck to the rules of the game as I understood them. Of course I took notes on the notepad. What journo wouldn’t? It turned out that it was there for its own purpose. But this was not a judgemental experience - except insofar as one judges oneself.
It was more a reminder to pause for a moment and look at life as we pass through it, to recognise benchmarks and aspects one may wish could have been otherwise, and to do so together with a virtual stranger.
It was a pleasant exercise and a brush with a lovely fellow spirit on this strange path between birth and death.
When: 11 to 20 Mar
Where: Secret Locations
Production Image Credit: Roy Vandervegt