Something in the Water is staged in a pared-back, black box theatre in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens. With low lighting and chairs grouped around tables, the space feels cosy and intimate, and this is very much reflected in the performance. The show’s host, Grumms (S.E. Grummett), is so warm, funny and engaging that the audience members are easily persuaded to suspend disbelief and enter into a wacky world of sea monsters in high heels and angry mobs with tiny pitchforks.
Initially, we are introduced to two main characters: Barbie (she’s independent but not in a bossy way) and Ken (he doesn’t talk about his feelings, he head-butts them until they fade away). But it’s not long before a new character (Squidsy) emerges and slowly steals the show.
Using little more than plastic dolls, a fish tank and an overhead projector, Grumms narrates the tale of Squidsy attempting to navigate their environment by disguising themselves as a Normal Human Man or a Normal Human Woman. There’s some beautiful puppetry, clever clowning and endearing, home-made projections, all hilariously interspersed with “Breaking News” reports and David Attenborough voice-overs.
Despite the adult content (sexual references and full nudity), the show has the innocent feel of a child making sense of their world: think doll play, pretending to be a monster, costume changes behind living room curtains.
The show was in fact born out of Grumms’ own experience of growing up non-binary, but there’s a universal message in the shy sea creature who tries to squeeze into the costume of a “normal” human. After all, everyone’s got bits of themselves they like to keep hidden for fear of appearing odd. Grumms reminds us we don’t need to stuff ourselves into socially acceptable uniforms; being unashamedly who we are is the best way to save the world.
Frantic, frivolous and weirdly charming, Something in the Water tugs on the heart-strings and tickles the funny bones. You’ll leave the theatre with your tentacles waving proudly.
Something in the Water (recommended for audiences aged 18+) is showing in Black Box Theatre, Noel Lothian Hall, Adelaide Botanic Gardens, March 4-7 March and March 16-21. There is also a G-rated version of the show – Something in the Water: for Kids – playing from March 9.13.
Read more Adelaide Fringe reviews and previews here.
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.