‘Floral Peroxide is a personal account of my own journey through the medical system, and navigating society as a whole, in a chronically unwell body,’ says 2016 Poetry Slam Championship Alison Bennett, explaining her debut Fringe 2019 performance: Alison Paradoxx presents Floral Peroxide.
Floral Peroxide explores disability using performance poetry, sound art, and dance to tell her story. ‘As a disabled and chronically ill artist,’ says Bennett, ‘I explore the paradoxes of disability, and the societal desire to ‘fix’ the broken self. My work articulates injury, and trauma through metaphor, sound, and visual theatre.’
Floral Peroxide is based primarily on Bennett’s final diagnosis: Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), which she’s had since birth but wasn’t diagnosed until she was 40.
‘It was my chance to reclaim my identity and construct my own narrative of how I see myself in the world around me. I was sick of other people’s narratives for my life, and, as a poet, naturally began to ‘write what I know’, for me – what started with a lot of anger, and resentment, ended in a journey of acceptance, and understanding.’
Bennett has collaborated with other artists like 5000AD (sound artist), Ian Gibbins (video artist) and Angelique Joy (costume designer) to bring a multimedia experience to Floral Peroxide. The multimedia experience of the performance was ‘motivated by this desire to create performance art that is inclusive, and accessible to all, regardless of ability.’ She also said it came from events she’s performed at which are inaccessible to a number of people with disabilities.
In the media release for Floral Peroxide, Bennett says there is a societal desire to ‘fix’ the broken self. This is to represent society’s view that someone who is ‘broken’ can be mended. She also says it comes from years of trying to explain her pains and disabilities, which have included severe spinal scoliosis and surviving a house fire with second-degree burns. ‘The western world has a majority viewpoint of disability as being a flaw that needs to be corrected, rather than a society that needs to adapt to change!’
When asked about what she thinks about the representation of disability at the 2019 Adelaide Fringe, Bennett said, ‘I feel that 2019 has been a stand-out year, in regard to forging forward with better access for artists, and audience members by Fringe as whole, and I can only see that this will be a positive in enabling other disabled artists to create work, with the Fringe festival in mind.’
She is happy with the inclusion of the Accessibility Champions, an Accessibility guide, and the work by the Fringe’s Access and Inclusion Officer. However, she says it still has a long way to go in giving disabled artists the required needs to be part of any large festival. She would love to see a bigger representation of disability at the Fringe in future years.
If you are interested in seeing Alison Paradoxx presents Floral Peroxide, it will be at The Libertine by Louis on February 23-24. For those interested in learning more about health/disability at the Fringe, be sure to also check out the Social Change Guide to the Fringe by the Don Dunstan Foundation. A link to the signup page can be found here.
Interview by Cameron Lowe