The stories stand alone, yet each leads naturally to the next. There are subtle shifts from gentle humour to poignancy, and the work is perfectly paced with well-timed pauses.
The shows that comprise You Can’t Hide in the Desert have all been performed before by Crisp. Now, for the first time, Pearls (2018), The Forgettory (2019) and I Made an Adult (2021) can be viewed as a suite via Black Box Live, recorded for this year’s Adelaide Fringe, screening on demand for the duration of the festival.
The staging is different for each performance but shares a common ambience – vintage suburbia –and simple props set the scene for a deep dive into recollections of family, love, loss and grief.
Crisp, remembering visits to the suburban backyard of her youth, pulls forth a patchwork of childhood memories. Bees buzz in the pepper trees and she feels the warmth of the late-winter sun. She recalls her mother getting ready to go out, her gestures mimicking the application of make-up and the doing of hair. This is a mother who yearned for a life other than the one she was living in 1970s regional South Australia, “travelling” via a garden inspired by favourite countries instead of touring the world in real life. In light-hearted reminiscences (a mother’s pearls of wisdom, buying cigarettes for parents, studying and failing French), she explores deeper themes such as hidden vulnerabilities, the impermanence of relationships, solace in community and the acceptance of limitations.
In one scene, a mother is awake at night when everyone else is asleep. On the 44th floor of an apartment block in Abu Dhabi, she’s a long way from home. She’s counting down the hours until dawn. Feeling the weight of parental responsibility, she relives the fears once held for a child with a serious health condition.
In these richly detailed and satisfying memoir monologues, we’re with a daughter as she packs up a house after a parent’s passing, unearthing items long forgotten. At a nursing home, we visit the grandfather whose conversations are coloured by steadily creeping dementia. We witness the ache of making space for “the one, long goodbye” of helping a child become an adult.
You Can’t Hide in the Desert is melancholic yet rewarding in its capacity to prompt personal reflection. It recognises that the mechanics of memory are slippery and fluid, intangible and elusive. We’re reminded that although everyone leaves a story, interpretations will differ depending on who’s doing the telling.
Through exquisitely precise writing – often poetic and at times meditative in delivery – Crisp gifts us insights into the complexities of how memory shapes us.
You Can’t Hide in the Desert is showing online via On Demand at Black Box Live throughout Fringe.
Read more 2022 Adelaide Fringe stories and reviews here.
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.