Arts and Culture

Adelaide Fringe Review: Bone Cage

Posted on: Sun 27 Feb 2022

Bold and powerful, the revival of Bone Cage, encapsulates the anarchy, the distortion and plaguing ambivalence surrounding a woman trapped in the complexities of an abusive relationship.

A newly added opening scene lifts the curtain on the public facing image of a charming husband and seemingly supported wife – adding a clever juxtaposition before plunging the audience into a dark ‘behind closed doors’ world. Pulled centre stage – a cage – a horrifying, looming contraption handmade of old household and garden objects, crafts the foundations of great symbolic gravity. 

Much like Geoff Gillham – who was the original creator of Bone Cage – Director, Dr Corinna Di Niro sees theatre as an educational tool for change, used to initiate dialogue on topical issues. She crafted Bone Cage’s adaptation on themes of Domestic and Family Violence (DFV), following her own experience with the issue. It has since been presented three times. First, in 2019 at a conference, later in 2021 as a response to the surge in DFV cases from necessary Covid-19 lock downs, and most recently for Adelaide Fringe 2022. The outstanding merge of both traditional theatre and technology is brought together by a well-rounded collaboration of UniSA creative researchers and local theatre company, Stage Secrets.

Bone Cage is uniquely potent and evocative. It rises with an ominous feel. Metaphor takes hold in the surreal landscape of an abandoned house, encasing the audience in an impacting, thought-provoking and explicit sensory experience.

We learn we are in a space where the man dominates and the women is imprisoned. A space that portrays pain, desperation, violence, fear and submission. The woman emerges in the cage from beneath a dirty blanket, beaten. A rope laced to her neck binds her to the enclosure. Following a fragmented exchange, the man falls asleep. Another woman appears, urging the caged woman to leave. But who is she? An alter ego? Society? The subconscious?

A sharp detour from western theatre conventions embraces the force of ambiguity. Onlookers become captive, struck with layered and conflicting sounds, fragments of text and flashes of disturbing projections. We are there, caught in the chaos of a deeply emotive tug of war.

The focus is not on narrative but on confronting experience. We feel her pain, her resistance and confusion as she grapples with ‘inside’ and ‘out there’. We see through her lens: is the home more of a prison or a refuge? Is the man more of an abuser or provider?

Beyond the tangible imprisonment, we are skilfully drawn to the intensity of a multifaceted interplay, swept in the crossfire of fear and cognitive dissonance. If these walls collapse, what other external networks cease to exist? How quickly does the mind also become an equal wall of the cage?

The magnitude of experimental theatre is upheld both by the actors’ (Georgia Laity, Suzanne Bleeze and Robert Donnarumma) nuanced performance, integration of technology and direct audience engagement. It is a difficult work to convey but has been masterfully articulated with evident dedication and direction.

A post performance Q&A panel adds to the influence of the production by shining a light on such topical themes and drawing perspectives to the fore. Bone Cage is a valuable, innovative resource that pushes beyond theatre to initiate vital conversations of our time.

Image supplied by Dr Corinna Di Niro

Reviewed by Emma Wotzke

Festival City

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