What happens when you take your memories and boil them down to a crisp, neat thing? A curl of sunburnt skin, the scabby relic of a childhood mishap, disturbing feelings trapped inside a glass jar with the lid screwed on tight – all specimens deserving of a special spot in the display case. Rramp is an invitation to enter the world of the Collector, where strange things are very nice, and where there might be a place for us, too, as long as we mind the ornaments.
Christine Johnston – as the statuesque Collector – is joined by her frequent collaborators Lisa O’Neill and Peter Nelson as the Archivist and the Electrocrat, fellow band members she informs us she’s “collected” along the way. Their music (a live metal/industrial/techno/rock hybrid) gets a sweetly subversive layer of Playschool icing with animations by Ahmarnya Price.
The multi-media storytelling is funny and weird and surprisingly poignant, and it all works well if you’re prepared to sit back and surrender yourself to the strangeness.
The Collector likes to collect things; things she likes. Loose piles of paperwork and bunches of tax receipts are wrangled into ordered submission by the Archivist, who seems perpetually on the brink of breaking free from the precisely mannered world of her controlled, and controlling, employer. Moods, emotions and memories linger in the love room – safely preserved but rarely visited by the mistress of the house.
Rramp is a tangential exploration of life moments that mattered, small and large, and there’s much to relish. These are tales of dark whimsy and devoted chicken love. Henhouse bullies send Mavis the chook into an unexpected relationship with Lily the blind-in-one-eye dog. A nightmare of a child’s tea party descends into warfare after too much red cordial, but it’s not all gloom and melancholy.
As the collector muses on her past, there’s comfort to be found in treasuring objects built to last. An old Holden’s chrome window-winding handle is recalled with fondness, and the strength and beauty of Johnston’s voice punctuates the mayhem with delicate, well-timed interludes.
Rramp reflects on the lengths we’ll travel in the pursuit of an enduring connection to the things we love, whether they’re possessions, pets or people. If you’re a fan of cabaret that’s miles from mainstream, then this is the show for you.
Rramp plays at the Space Theatre tonight (June 13) and tomorrow (June 14).
More Adelaide Cabaret Festival reviews and previews
Review: Cassandra Wilson
Review: Chaplin: A Life in Concert
Review: Tom Burlinson’s salute to swing
Review: Mojo Juju
Review: Molly Ringwald
Review: Variety Gala
Review: Shane Warne the Musical
Paul Capsis: A man of many colours
Sugartits: sweet guerrilla cabaret