‘Do you believe in aliens?’ This is a question you are asked throughout Area 53, an immersive theatre project by D’Faces of Youth Theatre, a Whyalla arts organisation that only last year took out the Arts SA Ruby Award for Best Community or Regional Event or Project for this show - and having seen it, it’s easy to see why.
Audiences are greeted by the energetic Eric Parsons, an goofy and kooky character who waddles with a distinctive geeky gait and speaks with intelligence, but also no concept of an inside voice. This prologue performance sets the mood for what’s to come - an interactive, loud, manic, comical, intense experience where the audience led by Eric infiltrates ‘Area 53’, a top secret government facility in suburban Adelaide dedicated to the study of aliens.
Area 53 as a show didn’t have a detailed narrative to follow, but rather was a conceptual experience with a loose plot. The ensemble of actors, considering their young age, did a highly commendable job at devising strong nuanced characters and remaining in those roles consistently. However, the acting over the top of one another made it hard to know who the audience should’ve been listening to at any given time...but maybe this was an intentional decision to add to the already dizzyingly quick pace.
The production elements were, simply put, sensationally designed and executed. From the coloured lighting and suspenseful sound effects, to the interactive and intricate props and elaborately detailed set, the warehouse in Bowden was truly transformed - I would recommend seeing this show for these elements alone.
Audiences are really drawn into the show themselves, being decontaminated, donned with tin foil hats and face masks, and directed to walk, and sometimes run and duck around the warehouse to escape capture. Some (un)lucky patrons are handed alien artefacts and/or arteries, some brave souls are sent on solo missions to save the group.
Area 53 was not what I expected - instead of a serious exploration of extra terrestrial life, I got a comedic take on the conspiracy theories surrounding aliens and government cover ups. Overall, it’s a fun 45 minute experience the whole family can enjoy - if you’re looking for an encounter of the third (and absurd) kind, visit Area 53!
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Area 53 was reviewed on it’s opening night on the 22nd of February, and is completely sold out for the remainder of its run. For further information on the company behind the show D’Faces, click here.
Thumbnail image via Adelaide Fringe website.