Fringe Talk Day Twenty-eight

Con-Strukt + 'Sola' The Tree with no Leaves - Thursday 28th September

I step off Broadway and onto Kensington Street, Chippendale at about 7pm. The Festival Village isbuzzing, packed with bodies, drinking, dining, Thursday night-ing. In amongst this future of neon lights and steel, I’m looking for a sandstone cottage.

As I make my way down the road, the crowd thins out.


“In a dark, dark town there was a dark, dark street…”

Things get quieter.

“and in the dark, dark street there was a dark, dark house…”

I feel like I’m the only person in the world.

I peer into the window of an empty cottage.  

Paper dolls.  Hundreds of them.  Suspended on countless string zig zags.  

I have found Con-Struckt.

A crack of light cuts into the darkness of the street as the front door opens. I step inside and am equal parts thrilled and terrified. Haunting notes of a music box pierce the silence. My eyes are met with flickering candlelight and more paper dolls, carefully strung in complex webs around the skeleton of the empty building. The sound of a rope ominously tightening… 

Suddenly a manic woman’s voice erupts from the next room, “Wisdom cries aloud in the street!” 

I jump. Another voice joins in. This time its little girl. Singing about saving children from hell. 

The work has me lost in time. I move from room to room to find the voices, navigating string and piles of paper dolls strewn across the floor. I feel as if I am trapped with them in a looping incantation. I am totally immersed. 

Con-Strukt is an utterly brilliant performative installation. It is a haunting work that negotiates the construction of gender while also exploring the tension between it and society. 

Simone De Beauvoir would have loved it. 

I could have spent all night in Con-Struckt, but I dash across to PACT for my next show, 

Sola: The tree with no leaves.

The PACT theatre is full of bodies as we take our seats in the inky black warehouse. The lights slowly fade up to reveal a magnificent tree made of heaving knots and twirls of rope floating in the centre of the space.  As the notes of a viola begin, a woman’s body begins to stir in the tree’s branches. She slowly comes alive, writhing and twisting.  


The interdisciplinary work combines body, live music and sculpture to create a visceral and deeply personal piece which explores performer Paloma Negra’s creative heritage as well as her connection to her own artistic power.  As the work moves through rituals of innocence and experience I feel each moment in the pit of my stomach. I witness her ecstasy and heartache as she embodies the graceful and the grotesque, her being fraught with longing and desire. Sola is an arrestingly beautiful performance.

As Sola settles into its final moments and Negra’s body comes home to rest in the branches of her tree, I realise that this is my last Fringe Talk performance for 2017. I think back on the past month, my heart and head have been pushed and pulled in every direction by radical creatives who push the boundaries of what art is, what it can do and what it can be.  

I can’t help but think back to the best bit of life advice I’ve ever been given.

“Stay uncomfortable. Once you get comfortable, you’re stuck.”

I hope you’ve had a radical Sydney Fringe Festival. See you next year. 


[We're almost at the end! Tomorrow Eleni covers Mirror and My Dad's Death]


Written by Alana Bowden