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UNSW Arts Collective: The Dark Show Review

Written by Daniel Morrison on July 15, 2008

It wasn’t an art exhibition, it wasn’t abstract theatre, it wasn’t a film screening, it wasn’t a poetry reading, it wasn’t a dance performance or a music concert, and it wasn’t something to subvert our idea of a university exhibition. It was all of those things, and much much more. The University of New South Wales arts collective pulled off a night which on the face of it seems rather simple, but in reality was something rather extraordinary.

Rather than let each individual department keep their heads down and do their thing, they had the brilliant idea of bringing it all together for one great show.  As I alluded to before, it seems so obvious and simple that one is surprised that it hasn’t happened before. But until last week, it hadn’t. And I was delighted to have been there for the debut.

We walked past some performance art by the entrance (a girl reading a book, a guy eating scones, a guy on an exercise bike, and a guy just standing there shivering in his boxers), and came into studio 1 to admire the art hanging on the walls. It was all feeling very refined and sophisticated, until some 80s disco rock came over the speakers, and all of a sudden people who we thought were just members of the public there to enjoy the exhibition like us burst out in some utterly exuberant dancing.  Slightly surreal, but a lot of fun, and it did a good job of exposing our knee jerk aversion to such spontaneous displays of creative freedom.

 

And that pretty much set the tone for the rest of the evening. It was going to be full of surprises and unexpected twists of fate, at once entertaining, engaging, and challenging. Or just a bit of fun.. sometimes I have a habit of over thinking things.

Either way, for the next few hours we were treated to what could best be described as an eclectic display of creative brilliance.  The challenge that university productions face, in my opinion, is in not over indulging in obscurity – not getting too carried away with post modern bizarreness. And it is a line that this crew tread very well. With solid performing skills to back it up, the whole show was polished and professional, with wisps of virtuosity piking up every now and then that actually made you stop and go ‘wow’. At no point did it feel amateur or under developed, and that is something quite rare even in the professional theatre world, let alone student one.  AND it was free, which is the best damn value I’ve ever seen in my life.

I was hooked.  I thought ‘this is exactly what this city needs’. Genre breaking shows of good honest art. No more of this departmental division nonsense, rather people coming together in the name of free expression.

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