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2009 sydney festival


the gift of a smile

gail priest: the smile off your face


I KNOW WHY THE BELGIAN MAKERS CALL THIS WORK THE SMILE OFF YOUR FACE, YET EVERYONE EMERGING FROM THE THEATRE WORE EXACTLY THE SAME GRIN. I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE FOR MEN TO EXPERIENCE THIS SHOW, BUT FOR WOMEN, OR THIS WOMAN, THE WORK RECREATED THE MULTILAYERED SENSATION—THE BLISSFUL MELANCHOLY, THE PAINFUL PLEASURE—OF BEING IN LOVE. AND EVEN THOUGH WE HAVE TO LEAVE THIS WORLD AT THE END OF OUR 20-MINUTE TIME SLOT—BE WRENCHED AWAY FROM OUR LOVE—THE SHEER JOY OF HAVING THAT EXPERIENCE IS WORTH SMILING ABOUT.

There’s so little I can say without giving the work away (it’s rumoured to show in Melbourne later this year) but, suffice to say, blindfolded, confined to a wheelchair and hands tied, you are subjected to multi-sensual stimulations. Nothing in particular stands out, nothing is said that is truly profound, no sensory image is completely gobsmacking, yet it accumulates, and you must attend to the moment, trust in the moment to experience it.

For those accustomed to direct interaction between performer and audience, Smile Off Your Face will perhaps not be quite as mind-blowing as for the unwitting participant. Yet even for the most seasoned contemporary performance aficionados, the intimacy of this work is utterly disarming. And if you go with it and trust the makers of this world, a truly beautiful gift awaits you.


Sydney Festival, Ontroerend Goed, The Smile Off Your Face, AADA Pilgrim Theatre, Jan 14-Feb 1

RealTime issue #89 Feb-March 2009 pg. 8

© Gail Priest; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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