Fight Night: Ready to Rumble

Belgium’s Ontroerend Goed (OG) returns to the Adelaide Festival to present the Australian premiere of Fight Night, a collaboration with award-winning local experimental troupe The Border Project.

Belgium’s Ontroerend Goed (OG) returns to the Adelaide Festival to present the Australian premiere of Fight Night, a collaboration with award-winning local experimental troupe The Border Project. Last in Adelaide to present their trilogy of immersive theatre (Internal, The Smile Off Your Face and A Game of You) as part of the 2013 Adelaide Festival, OG’s collaboration with The Border Project (Trouble on Planet Earth, I am not an Animal) was more than two years in the making. Presented like a boxing bout, Fight Night introduces five political candidates who must win over the audience over five rounds. It’s a political play minus the politics – a popularity contest, as the audience votes for their favourite candidate throughout the show. The Border Project’s David Heinrich (actor, composer and sound designer) said they were conscious when they began this project to not make the show political, even though it’s about five political candidates battling it out for votes. “We didn’t want to all of a sudden start having political debates about issues and so on,” Heinrich explains. “It gets too specific to different countries and the show doesn’t need to do that – if you want to have a political debate, politics already exists to facilitate that exchange of ideas.” Heinrich, whose character is an old fashioned conservative, explains that Fight Night is more about how the audience, as voters, engage in the political process: “How they make their choices and what it is that influences them to the extent that they think they have controlover the choices they are making.” Created by OG’s Alexander Devriendt after Belgium was left without a government for 500 days, it will travel to Sydney after its Australian premiere in Adelaide. Fight Night had seasons in Belgium and the UK last year. Even though it was created and devised by Devriendt, Heinrich says Fight Night was a complete collaboration between the two companies. “He [Deviriendt] came in with a basic structure for the overall show and this idea of where he wanted to go with it – simply what he wanted the show to be about. But the rehearsal process was very open – we worked together. All of us wrote different parts of the script together and separately. Often we would work on something and then we would get homework tasks to write a speech about a particular thing and we would bring that in the next day. “We spent three months making this show, which is a crazy unheard of amount of time in Australia for rehearsals. It was a real slow burn. When you see the show it will seem very simple from the beginning, and on the surface it is, but there are layers hidden if you want to go deeper.” Heinrich, who composed the score for State Theatre and Bell Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors last year, as well as Fight Night’s score with Border Project’s Cameron Goodall, says the rehearsal process was quite relaxed in the beginning, as the Belgian company didn’t follow the Australian theatre tradition of 10am-6pm rehearsal days. “There were some days early on where at two or three in the afternoon Alexander would go, ‘Yeah, you know, I think I just need to go home and think about it now. That’s all for today. Come in tomorrow and we’ll talk about this then.’ Initially, we were like, ‘What’s going on?’ But it’s nice to have that reflective space built into a process where you can actually think about an idea properly rather than go, ‘Well, this is all the money we could get. We’ve got four weeks to make the thing – let’s go for it.’ “They [OG] spend a long time making a show but then they will tour it for years. Here you might spend six weeks making a show but then you’ll do it at the Playhouse once and go to Mt Gambier and that’s it – done. Their model is to build shows that have longevity and can tour internationally and they build that into them.” Fight Night will travel to Sydney before returning to Belgium in May when the country is in the midst of elections. Nothing is confirmed after that but Heinrich says The Border Project will be developing their follow-up to the award winning I am not an Animal this year, which will be a “weird funeral” show. “It’s basically about imagining what your own funeral would be like. That’s the starting point for it.” Fight Night Adelaide Festival Queen’s Theatre Thursday, March 13 to Sunday, March 16 theborderproject.com

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