The Archive of Educated Hearts

The Archive of Educated Hearts is an exquisitely touching piece of work. This theatre and installation act is tucked away in one of the snug and charming spaces at the Holden Street Theatres. In this half an hour production, Casey Jay Andrews, both writer and performer, shares the true stories of four women and their battles with breast cancer; these women are all influential figures in Andrews’ life.

The intimacy, created by both the physical space and the way the stories are told, was overwhelming. The small audience of only six were seated in a crescent shape around Andrews, allowing her to offer every person eye contact and directed expression, having a remarkable effect on our emotional investment. The performance space was filled with homely treasures – pictures, trinkets, old toys, books – the floor covered with beautifully detailed rugs, and the seats were old sofa chairs that many of us associate with our grandparents’ houses. It felt like a feminine space. It was the perfect place to discuss the long lasting and wide spreading effects of cancer.

Andrews brought together a range of artefacts to tell these stories, with voice recordings from the real-life characters and pictures making for an intensely authentic experience. As the audio played, Andrews sat at a small table laying out pictures under a camera that projected her content onto a screen in front of us.

Between the personal stories and reflections, the audience learnt about the Educated Heart, a concept from Gelett Burgess’ book Have You an Educated Heart? Complimenting her personal stories with the ideals of an Educated Heart – kindness, instincts and relations to others – was a remarkable paring by Andrews, as it added a further layer of sentimentality, allowing us to understand the way we receive and process life’s challenges. Andrews herself opens up to us about her own heart, and inarticulate one.

Andrews’ writing is rich in imagery and delicate in tone, with her use of language allowing audiences to feel a deep connection to her and the experiences at the heart of this piece. In her delivery, Andrews presents a version of herself that reflects genuine kindness and vulnerability, yet great composure and comfort; in summary, her character and narrative voice is a flawless fit for this production.

The Archive of Educated Hearts brings us back to the humble art of storytelling, and the power of shared connection and human experiences, particularly those generated in times of grief. Expect the odd tear, a struck nerve or a lump in your throat. In this homely space listening to Andrews’ gentle recount, you will feel as if you have found the company of an old friend, someone you can sit with for hours and discuss life with a cup of tea in hand.

5 stars


Words by Michelle Wakim

The Archive of Educated Hearts is showing at Holden Street Theatres until the 16th.

In Conversation With: Alison Paradoxx

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

‘Wild Welsh Woman’- By David Faber

 

A daughter

of far off

primeval,

proletarian

Pontypridd,

unaware of

Mark Twain’s

dictum that

age doesn’t matter

if you don’t mind,

she hated with a

passion like

Dylan Thomas

the idea of aging

with gentle grace;

it went against

the grain of

one who had

seized the day

of youth with

romantic zest

in Swinging London.

She felt depressed

by a volume of

poems on aging,

its joys and ills

distressed her.

But she kept

her figure `til

the day she fell.

Lulled by the

sweet, sedate

rhythms of a

passionate

friendship four

decades long,

I only found out,

after her funeral,

as you do,

just how very

much I had

loved

her.


Words by David Faber

Photo by Henry Paul on Unsplash