Thursday, March 21, 2013
Adelaide isn’t the first place most people think of when they plan a trip to Australia. The city is often overlooked in favor of Sydney, Melbourne, and areas like the Great Barrier Reef. But every March it comes alive during the Adelaide Festival, a performing arts extravaganza featuring music, dance, theater, and more.
Last week I was invited to fly out to Australia with Emirates to experience the Adelaide Festival firsthand. The trip started off on a high note with a visit to the airline’s lounge at Heathrow. Not only was there food, drink, and free WiFi on hand, but there was also a special door within the room from which we were able to board the plane.
Once inside, I got to experience Emirates’ business class on the A380 to Dubai. I knew I was in for a treat when I was greeted by my own personal mini-bar, complete with bottles of still and sparkling water, cranberry juice, and soda. I also had two TV screens at my disposal, a three-course meal to enjoy, and a bar at the back of the cabin where I could indulge in more food and drink during the flight.
After connecting in Dubai, I had another long-haul leg in business class, this time in a smaller cabin. While I didn’t have the mini bar at my seat, the journey was just as comfortable and the staff as friendly and attentive. It was definitely a great way to travel.
The only thing I would have changed about the trip was that the headphone jack was unique to the ones provided by the airline, so I couldn’t use my own (slightly better) set on the flights. Otherwise I couldn’t have been happier.
When I arrived in Adelaide, I was met by an Emirates driver and taken to my hotel, the Crowne Plaza. From there I started my three-day exploration of the Adelaide Festival. The city was small enough that I could walk to all of the performance venues, as well as the other highlights, including the famous Adelaide Festival Fringe.
The main festival hall was home to my first event, Carlos Saura’s Flamenco Hoy. It was a stunning show put on by a Spanish company, and it featured a wide range of traditional and contemporary flamenco dancing and music. Throughout the evening, I was impressed by the range of the performers’ repertoire and the energy with which they performed every number.
The following day I returned to the festival hall for a completely different kind of performance. A Game of You was an interactive performance piece by Ontroerend Goed, a Belgian company that put individual audience members in the spotlight. Without giving too much away, it was a very creative way to teach people about themselves while also revealing the limitations of learning a lot about another person in very little time.
My third performance of the Adelaide Festival was by Banana Bag & Bodice, a company that hailed straight from my home state of California (surprise, surprise!). Set in a large hall at The German Club, Beowulf—A Thousand Years of Baggage was part musical, part critical analysis, and all humorous, entertaining deconstruction of one of the oldest epic poems in English history.
The final show was back at the Adelaide Festival Centre, and was as different from the others as they had been from one another. The Australian State Theatre Company’s The Kreutzer Sonata was a one-man adaptation of Tolstoy’s novella by the same name. Set to Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No 9., it was a haunting, powerful piece about love, jealousy, and revenge.
When I wasn’t attending official performances, the Adelaide Festival Fringe entertained me. At the end of bustling Rundle Street, the parklands were filled with Gluttony and the Garden of Unearthly Delights.
Both had carnivalesque atmospheres and were home to small venues dedicated to showcasing the works of all kinds of performers. Similar to Edinburgh’s famous Fringe festival, it had a great atmosphere and drew crowds every day and night.
Outside of the festival and the fringe, I got a chance to see some of Adelaide. From the Art Gallery of South Australia to the bustling Central Market, from the great shops and restaurants on Rundle Street to the beautiful botanical gardens, I had no problem filling my time between shows by seeing the highlights of the city.
My time in Adelaide ended on the same day as the festival, and it felt fitting to say good-bye as the city was striking its sets. But the 2014 dates are already in the calendar, and if next year’s shows are anywhere near as world-class as this year’s, they should be going in my calendar, too. And yours.