In a world where we are constantly absorbing avalanches of information from all sides, Deluge seeks to pummel us with even more. From its innovative use of an under-utilised space to its five simultaneous storylines, Deluge certainly gives its audience plenty to think about, perhaps even too much. But for a story aimed at a texting-while-emailing-while-watching-a-movie-while-checking-Facebook generation, too much information might be the perfect amount.
Certainly one of the edgier and younger offerings of this year’s Adelaide Festival, Deluge is designed for those who are accustomed to receiving information from many channels at once. It follows five stories, all happening on the same stage (if you can call a glass tank full of foam a ‘stage’) at the same time. While Emily and Sam deal with the aftermath of their one-night stand, soldier Chelsea struggles with her duty to her country and her duty to herself, wannabe soldier Gemma attempts to maintain her dominance in the online gaming world, young May attempts to find meaning and inspiration through religion, and The Prophet’s botched attempt at gospel has disastrous consequences.
The narratives interrupt each other, interact with each other, and sometimes overlap each other until all the audience is left with is a cacophony of voices. Occasionally, some of the stories feel a little rambling, but the benefit of having so many stories on display is that the audience can easily tune out of one and into another. And, at 50 minutes running time, the show is short enough for audiences to maintain the high level of focus required in order to keep track of most of the characters.
It is difficult to pick a standout from the cast, partially because the cast all did equally well with a challenging format and partially because (due to the nature of the show) it’s difficult to focus on any single actor for more than a few seconds. Eliza Oliver is perhaps the funniest of the bunch, using her character’s brief moments of comedy to lighten up some serious subject matter, and Ashton Malcolm’s portrayal of trusting, lonely soldier Chelsea is strong and poignant, but there were no weak links in these interconnected stories.
Other memorable aspects of Deluge are Elizabeth Gadsby’s set and Chris Petridis’ lighting. The two harmonise beautifully, creating a set that is both aesthetically pretty and serves the plots and symbols clearly. The idea of using a foam pit for anything other than primary school gymnastics is exciting and, when you use the right foam and the right glass, surprisingly attractive.
Those who choose to immerse themselves in Deluge will either sink or swim; either the information will overwhelm and wash over you or you’ll somehow manage to navigate the tide until you’re brought back to shore. However, with its clear, emotive script and talented cast and creative team, you’ve got a pretty good chance of floating.