‘Dwell’ was unexpected.
‘Dwell’ is a non-verbal, clowning circus-cabaret, created by Maddy Grant and presented in partnership with Fringe Brisbane. Previously performed in 2019, Grant has devised the work to be adaptable to the ground-based circus performers, allowing each run of the season to be unique to the performers.
Audiences were invited to the intimate showing of the comings and goings of guests of a rundown, unhygienic motel. Each guest was required to follow three simple rules: leave the room as you found it; your stay is short, make the most of it; and to take your baggage with you when you leave. When these rules were broken, chaos unfolded, making for an outrageous, hilarious event that wasn’t suitable for children. The responsive audience frequently cheered, laughed and hollered throughout the 50-minute show.
In ‘Dwell’, audiences are offered a unique viewing experience – a front-of-house member invited audiences to view the show in the most comfortable way for them – whether that be sitting on a chair, taking a space on the cushioned floor, or standing up to get a better look. The differing options provided a comfy and inviting feeling that allowed audiences to relax and surrender themselves to the absurdity that was to follow.
The motel room appeared as a nostalgic representation of all motel rooms – a single bed with an ugly doona cover, a side table that is best not used, a 90s-style television and one piece of mediocre art. Notably, there was a black wooden chair in the room, which became the focal point for many of the circus acts.
After the performance, audiences were left with more questions than answers and began pondering what actually happens in motels. That is, was this inspired by real events? Do motel owners find big balls of chewed gum, globs of unidentified substances, unconscious guests and severed limbs in their rooms? Do people hire motel rooms for an hour so they can unleash their kinks, or do drugs before a music festival?
The hygiene of the motel was brought into question many times. The motel owner (played by Grant) was more focused on shining the guest’s drinking glass with Grant’s own breath and assembling the towel into a phallic shape than ensuring the room was clean for the next patron. Fortunately, the motel cleaner (performed by Adam Wood) would attempt to cleanse the room with, what was hopefully, sanitiser. Wood was more focused on sanitising one side of the tilted painting than giving every surface a thorough clean, however.
Each act was unique, unexpected and unapologetic. From a nun stripping to sexy Jesus to a giant heart performing a very R-rated scene, to even the cleaner falling in love with his mop and imagining their entire future, audiences learnt quickly to not make any assumptions with the next guest.
Grant’s genius concept allows ‘Dwell’ to be continuously produced, as the narratives are able to be different to the previous season, allowing past audiences to see the work again. Furthermore, the different renditions allow audiences to feel as if they have witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime show, reigniting the unique and intimate nature of theatre. If Grant were to produce ‘Dwell’ again, the only advice would be to have a venue with a bigger audience capacity, as it appeared the shows sold out most evenings, and they have certainly gained a larger following after this season.
Hopefully ‘Dwell’ will return soon so audiences can continue to witness the unexpectedly absurd happenings of this rundown and circus-filled motel. The high-energy performance was well received as the outrageous narratives allowed for a night of scandalous fun.
‘Dwell’ was performed until Sunday, 30 October 2022. For more information, visit Brisbane Fringe’s website.