By Meryl Tankard. Adelaide Festival. Restless Dance Theatre. Space Theatre. 14-17 March, 2019

On researching the meaning of the word Zizanie, I found it generally means ‘discord’ or ‘chaos’, however it can also mean ‘to drive a wedge between’. I think the latter meaning is most apt for this stunning performance by Restless Dance Theatre. Whilst Zizanie is born of the creative mind of the talented Meryl Tankard, who saw the idea of chaos and messing about as being a starting point, it is the metaphor of ‘driving a wedge’ that gives a very strong message.

Zizanie is delightful; a clever series of images, vignettes and scenes that are woven together to celebrate difference, to ask the audience to embrace others. It is multi-media as well as being a dance performance and the talented performers, Chris Dyke, Kathryn Evans, Jianna Georgiou, Michael Hodyl, Dana Nance and Michael Noble work well as a fluid ensemble.

The clever video projections and photography are beautifully created by Regis Lansac.

We are introduced to the performance in a playful way. A projected garden, into which creep various animals- innocence at its best. We then meet a grumpy old man who is constantly annoyed by the children playing outside his house and spends much of his time cutting, spraying and mowing the ‘weeds’ and killing insects. This then transfers to the children who are leaf blown, sprayed and shooed away. They are not welcome in his world. Through clever projection, he builds a wall to keep them away from his home. He ‘drives a wedge’ between his comfortable world and the outsiders who are different and annoying.

The grumpy old man is a conformist, sad and alone in his closed environment. It is through a series of encounters- even through comment on the state of our world today and climate change, that we finally see the wall being broken down.

A young performer crying alone is offered endless tissues by her fellow dancers and finally the ice is broken when the man joins this- finally embracing her and realising his world needs joy.

The final scenes are fun- we see the old man embracing his true nature, the wall crumbling and an invitation to the children to share cake to the song “If I’d ‘a knew you were coming I’d ‘a baked a cake”. The audience loved this- there was participation in dancing and cake eating!

Zizanie is a kaleidoscope of joy, whilst making a strong social comment. As children we are innocent-it is the world that teaches prejudice and we need to open up closed minds to the possibility of the beauty that surrounds us; break down the walls and embrace disability and difference in our society.

This is a moving piece of theatre which is very worth sharing with our younger humans.

Shelley Hampton

Photographer: Regis Lansac

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