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Schlock and awe: Brisbane Festival from the safety of your own car

Culture

An interactive theatrical production that combines elements of B-grade horror, motorbike stunts, choregraphed dance, and an immersive soundscape is set to take over the city’s showgrounds for Brisbane Festival in September.

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Audiences will be able to watch it from the relative safety of their own vehicles as the action unfolds in a makeshift drive-in at Brisbane Showgrounds, with the headlight beams of audience members’ cars cutting through the darkness of the otherwise-empty field.

Audiences will tune into a dedicated radio station as an unsettling story unfolds in front of and around them, with their car stereo speakers broadcasting eerie instructions and sound effects into the relative safety of their cars.

“The best way to describe it I guess is to understand the nature of coming to see it, which is that you arrive in your own car, you’re parked, there’s a ring of cars, you tune in your radio to the right frequency so that you start to hear a soundtrack,” co-artistic director Gavin Webber told InQueensland.

“To some degree, it’s almost like listening to a radio play because you’re hearing it inside your own vehicle, but at the same time you’re watching through your windscreen, and there’s a live performance that’s happening so you’re hearing everything that’s coming out of the car in front of you.

“The radio play – the live performance – you’re seeing is a horror performance based around the idea of kind of Aussie car culture and we’ve some classic horror tropes, as well, about vehicles.

“It’s also a kind of stunt action show – we have a stunt motorbike rider involved in the piece as well as four dancers, and our kind of prized possession, which is our 1979 white Volvo, which is really the star of the show.”

The theme of Throttle might seem custom-designed for a socially distanced world but the concept had its genesis in The Farm’s 2009 dance-thriller Roadkill – and Throttle itself was originally commissioned for last year’s Bleach Festival on the Gold Coast.

Roadkill was the first time we explored the horror genre in a dance context; an outback horror that left some audiences so freaked out they asked to be escorted to their cars at the end of the show,” Webber said.

“We were proud that we genuinely scared people with contemporary dance in that way. Throttle kicks things up a gear.”

Brisbane Festival artistic director Louise Bezzina said she had wanted to include Throttle as part of the program when she was originally started curating the program.

“It wasn’t looking likely at one point just for various reasons, which was really sad,” Bezzina told InQueensland. “But then I had to remake [the festival program] and when you only have a few months to kind of pull it all together, it was just a no-brainer because it just works perfectly for the times that we find ourselves in.

“I know it’s a great project, and I think it’s great that something that has premiered and been made in regional Queensland comes to ‘The Big Smoke’, so to speak, I think that that shows a wonderful innovation from the team of artists.”

Throttle was one of the highlights of Bleach in 2019, Bezzina’s final year as that festival’s artistic director before taking over the reins of Brisbane Festival, and she said it “already been one of the most well-received projects in this year’s festival”.

“Everybody wants to know about it I think because it is different and curious and beating for the times,” Bezzina said.  “I’m super excited that it’s going to be at the RNA Showgrounds as well because you know what a great venue to host something like this.”

Throttle will be at Brisbane Showgrounds from September 23-26.  Visit brisbanefestival.com.au for  details

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