There is a special thrill associated with being in a place you’ve never been before, whether it’s a new country or simply an unexplored aspect of an everyday haunt.
In Adelaide, we are fortunate to be enjoying the latter regularly with the blossoming of the small-bar scene. What, though, of the streets we tread every day?
A single property has only a small impact on the character of a street, and while this effect compounds over time, a neighbourhood absorbs and blurs this change into something gradual and generational.
Thus, a dim, unadorned and narrow basement in the very bowels of Hindley Street is the perfect place to step back and examine the strip through the eyes of its inhabitants. As voices murmur down from the street and venues above, while trickles of questionable liquid leak audibly through the exposed pipes, so does the Australian Bureau of Worthiness filter our perceptions of the strip to show us the things we never see as we rush between jobs or clubs.
I Met Hindley St is a near-verbatim theatre piece by the Bureau, an outfit comprised of artists Emma Beech, Tessa Leong and James Dodd.
The Bureau effectively has the conversations I wish I had the confidence to strike up with strangers.
The trio, along with a few other guests, have been in residence on Hindley Street since October 22. As part of their stay, each takes shifts around the clock on the street to document scenes, conversations and striking sights. Each interaction is centred around a question: “What makes your day worth it?”
The answers range from banal to deeply personal, but all are interesting in their own right. These answers are then woven into a narrative communicated through performance and illustration over about 45 minutes.
The Bureau effectively has the conversations I wish I had the confidence to strike up with strangers. Though not exactly a hermit, I have a crippling and omnipresent sense that I am annoying people if I talk to them without an invitation or legitimate excuse. At the same time, I am deeply curious about people and their lives. It’s an awfully neurotic dissonance to live within, believe you me.
I must also, if I’m honest with myself, admit that class and convenience play into these reservations. While I don’t think that’s totally unfounded – I was a fat, gay, sour-looking adolescent, after all, and thus a magnet for on-street heckling – it’s also true that I don’t really want to get stuck in a 40-minute conversation with someone who may be deeply offensive, or worse, boring.
So for me the Bureau is a godsend. But sitting with a bunch of other creative types, chuckling drily at more creative types re-enacting conversations with people to whom I wouldn’t ever talk? It’s confronting and made me seriously consider my own self-styled open-mindedness and whether I can comfortably pretend to understand a vast range of people to whom I’m never exposed.
The performance itself is carried mostly by Beech along a narrow catwalk as various stylistic representations of Hindley Street light the walls. Beech is a wonderfully calm, welcoming and engaging presence, evoking the feeling of an effective and well-intentioned bureaucrat. Scenes from Hindley Street are presented with little editorial from the team, which I appreciated – an area already burdened by connotation and often used as short-hand for debauchery doesn’t demand the addition of other layers of meaning.
I have met Hindley Street many times in various states of physical and mental capacity. But I Met Hindley Street allowed me to meet its regular inhabitants – another, less tangible aspect of a street so analysed, so hotly debated and so prescribed. And I’m glad I did.
The Australian Bureau of Worthiness has created a piece in an exciting and inventive space that is charming, unassuming and well worth a visit for anyone curious to meet Hindley Street as they’ve never met her before.
I Met Hindley Street is being presented from November 7-10 at a temporary space on the corner of Bank and Hindley Streets.
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