Fringe World review: 19 Weeks by Emily Steel ·
COMO Pool at COMO The Treasury as part of Blue Room Summer Nights, 3 February 2018 ·
Review by Jenny Scott ·
19 Weeks is a devastating and unique theatrical work performed within the waters of the luxury hotel swimming pool in the Treasury building.
Directed by Nescha Jelk, 19 Weeks tells the story of playwright Emily Steel who had a termination in 2016 after her baby was diagnosed with Down Syndrome.
This is an unflinching and deeply honest production, sharing details that many would never otherwise consider without experiencing such a difficult situation firsthand. Solo actor Tiffany Lyndall Knight delivers a compelling performance as she talks us through the process – from the initial frustrations of prenatal testing, to personally negotiating the decision to abort, the complexities of the medical procedures and breaking the news to family and friends.
There are plenty of raw emotions, and Knight’s portrayal of heartbreak is palpable, but the production ensures that the heavy subject matter is presented with nuance – it also offers the subtleties of wry humour, the act of putting on a brave face, beautiful family anecdotes, and measured reflections on friendship, work and confronting our own limitations.
As the only person in the pool, Knight approaches the audience from a position of vulnerability, although the audience themselves are also exposed – we’ve all removed our shoes, and those of us in the front row sit with our legs dangling in the water, aware of our bodies reflected in the hotel windows. Knight maximises a sense of intimacy across the narrow pool, with her unwavering eye contact drawing us in and making us forget to breathe. Her storytelling is vivid, complete with spot-on impressions and endearingly delivered anecdotes.
Winner of the Best Theatre Award at the 2017 Adelaide Fringe, 19 Weeks takes full advantage of the indoor pool as an unusual space for storytelling. Knight is continually moving through the water with grace – floating on the surface, abruptly submerging herself, curling up in an inflatable raft and performing powerful strokes. Her exhausting physicality, swimming accessories and the water itself are all utilised so perfectly to convey the emotions of the story. (It’s also great to see such an exclusive venue opened to the public for higher artistic purposes).
The strong storytelling and aesthetic power of 19 Weeks will stay with you long after you’ve left the Treasury building. It is an amazing theatrical experience.
Top: Solo actor Tiffany Lyndall Knight delivers a compelling performance in ’19 Weeks’. Photo: Sia Duff. Photo taken at the Adina Apartment Hotel Adelaide Treasury