When RCC returns to Adelaide Fringe this month, the hub will serve up a very different program of events to that which former creative director David Sefton curated for the 2020 iteration at the University of Adelaide’s North Terrace campus.

In what organisers describe as a “new era”, the revamped RCC will be an entirely open-air event. It is moving back to Victoria Square – the place where it started life in 2014 as the Royal Croquet Club – but on a smaller site where the Adelaide City Council recently agreed it could trade up until 12am on weekends.

Rather than buying tickets to see specific shows within the hub, people will pay a flat $21 entrance fee (or nothing before 6pm) that covers a range of different entertainment – including live music, physical performance and a large inflatable art installation.

Acrobats in training. Photo: Josh Strachan

A key focus of the new-look hub is a space/stage dubbed The Stables, which has been created by Adelaide-based acrobatics and physical theatre company Gravity & Other Myths and is described by its director, Jascha Boyce, as “a hybrid performance, training and rehearsal space”.

“The whole concept of The Stables is that it gives audiences an insight into the training that goes into being a physical practitioner,” says Boyce.

“There are many hours of work that go on behind the scenes that you really don’t get to see as an audience, so we wanted to give people a way to step into the training room.

“Every night will be completely different. We are programming anything and everything that relates to some sort of physical training, so everything from acrobatics to professional dance to fencing and roller derby and skating and capoeira and martial arts… essentially we’re using the space as a training floor, so groups of people will come and train and rehearse what they do.

“Sometimes it will just be physical training, sometimes it might be rehearsing for a show that’s happening in the Fringe or potentially even some creative developments of new work.”

Boyce and fellow acrobat Joren Dawson, who operate the creative studio Pulsing Heart, created activations through the RCC site at the 2020 Fringe and are the hub’s 2021 artistic directors.

She says the Stables will operate every day from 4pm until around 7.30pm or 8pm on the RCC’s main stage. This stage incorporates three distinct spaces, so there may be several different things happening at once, with a musician, band or DJ playing alongside the physical performers.

As to exactly what or who you might see at The Sables each evening, that will come down to potluck.

“We’re kind of keeping it a little bit secret and also a bit flexible so that as the Fringe goes on we can program different things and adapt to what artists really need,” Boyce says.

“Each day when you get to RCC there will be some information about what’s going to be on The Stables but aside from that it’s a bit of a mystery.”

Because of Gravity & Other Myths’ involvement, most nights will feature acrobatics, and audiences may even be lucky enough to see some of the acrobats who are rehearsing for its Adelaide Festival show, The Pulse.

With COVID-19 putting a sudden halt to the company’s usually busy touring schedule, all three of its core ensembles have come together for The Pulse, which will be presented with a 30-strong choir at Her Majesty’s Theatre from February 25.

“It’s by far the biggest show we’ve ever made, which is terrifying and exciting,” says Boyce, a co-founder of Gravity & Other Myths.

The company has previously presented a number of shows at both the Adelaide Festival and Fringe, including Out of Chaos and A Simple Space, and Boyce says that as well as providing entertainment for audiences, The Stables stage will benefit performers.

“A problem that we’ve always had in Fringe is that there’s not always good spaces to rehearse or warm up our work, so we also want to provide it as a functional space that is a safe training and rehearsal space for any artist in Fringe.”

Mountain, by physical theatre company Stalker.

Other highlights of the RCC in 2021 will include Mountain, a work presented by Sydney-based physical theatre company Stalker that combines aerial theatre and interactive performance technology. It will take place on a stack of nine shipping containers, with the harnessed acrobats performing against a backdrop of interactive projected representations of Australian habitats and wildlife.

The Victoria Square site is also home to a large inflatable art installation by French artist Cyril Lancelin, and will present a line-up of South Australian bands and musicians on what it has named The Cult Records stage.

In a media release earlier this month, RCC’s 2021 creative director, Stuart Duckworth (co-founder of the original Royal Croquet Club), said that returning to Victoria Square has special significance for the hub, with organisers “determined to create an experience that will expand on RCC’s legacy”.

“We are proud of what has been created, and we want this revamped RCC to reach in excess of 100,000 people this Fringe,” he says.

The 2021 Adelaide Fringe opens on Friday, February 19, and runs until March 21.

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