Two acclaimed Australian companies descend on the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival, now in its final 4 days, this week. Geelong, Australia’s Back to Back Theatre presents the Philadelphia premiere of their Bessie Award-winning small metal objects, which takes place at the 40th Street field on UPenn’s campus. Actors are outfitted with microphones. You are given headphones. From a prominent riser you listen to an intense drama happening somewhere in the crowd. In a public space with pedestrians wandering every which way, only gradually do the actors become distinguishable from the rest of the passersby.
small metal objects explores how respect is withheld from outsiders—the disabled or unemployed—whom society deems “unproductive.” Here they play a pivotal role in the night of two ambitious executives they’ve arranged to meet for a financial transaction that goes terribly awry. Meanwhile, a second drama is played out: Philadelphia’s pedestrians have become unknowing extras in a dramatic narrative, but they only see the 150 audience members listening intently to their headphones, and not the actors creating the drama.
[Sydney Festival: Small Metal Objects]
“Once we started working with headphones we asked ourselves would it be possible, and what would the experience be like, to present a show in chaos?” says Bruce Gladwin, director of small metal objects. Formed in 1987, Back to Back Theatre is one of Australia’s leading contemporary theater companies. In its 21-year history, Back to Back has forged its own unique relationship to theater, developing an original, distinctive artistic voice and a working process that supports its ensemble of actors with intellectual disabilities as its creative core. This performance takes place outdoors, rain or shine. Audience will be seated on a riser on the field and remain seated the entire performance. Headphones will be provided to each ticket holder.