Para Active, The Onion Bar

Review in Issue 15-1 | Spring 2003

One enters The Onion Bar disorientated (ideally with heavy heart, troubled with a fear or secret, which must be confronted) and leaves having undergone a cathartic sharing of stories. Detail is laid on in this rich setting with its ‘oniony’ aroma and hazy atmosphere; heightened by Eastern European sounds and powerful performances.

A gypsy works the room whilst we gradually gather and settle in the dimly lit bar with its sawdust-covered floor. Different voices are heard, different languages, yet this is a place, it appears, where people return to free themselves of their troubles. Complex and emotional, the layers of the onion are peeled back; dry and flaky, bittersweet, soft and hard as are the nature of the confessions. Though sombre in parts there is also irony and humour; at one point we hear an instrumental of the song ‘Feelings’ to which the men and women dance.

Tales of a faux doctor who bought his qualification for $30, a woman who can’t bear the incessant cries of her new-born so kills it, two men who fight for the hand of one woman, are all seamlessly woven and with immense physicality and concentration. Bodies are used for rhythm and atmosphere, dancing a percussive soundtrack, and voices create harmonic chants. The installation staging works particularly well; the audience naturally moves within the space, forming groups here and there to flank the action.

The seven performers are aware of the audience, but this never deflects from their focus. We’re encouraged to participate in moments both sad (the dead infant being passed around the room) and joyful (a conga-line that forms at the end of the show lifting us out of the intensity of these dark stories). The delight of this work is that being physically close to the performers and fellow audience, your reactions are shared and intensified, aiding you to further appreciate that which has taken place.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Nov 2002

This article in the magazine

Issue 15-1
p. 27