Thursday, March 3, 2016

DearDiary Adelaide Fringe Festival 2016

Dear Diary

Written and performed by Andi Snelling. Bakehouse Theatre. Adelaide Fringe Festival 2016 February 29-March 5 2016

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins.

Andi Snelling in DearDiary. Photo by Daniel D'Avard

Why does a person keep a diary? Is it to record events or maybe to capture the memories of the past and hold them to one’s heart forever? Is it to express deep emotions. Is it to create a legacy that can be passed down through the generations? Is it an effort to pen immortality for all time?

In a room surrounded by cases and with a globe of the world perched upon the highest case, the lid of a trunk slowly opens  to the gentle sound of a music box melody. Dressed in a colourful Pipi Longstocking style  outfit, Andi Snelling peers out at her audience, a broad childish smile creeping across her lips. Long legs stretch from the trunk and we meet a young child full of fun and the joy of life. 1992 appears on the screen at the back of the stage. Andrea Snelling is 9 years old. It is the world of childish delight, of Sesame Street and Super Nintendo, of presents and games and finding $4 in Timezone machines. It is the age of the innocent and playful child.
Andi Snelling in DearDiary. Photo by Daniel D'Avard

For an hour, Snelling takes us through the passing years of her life, the diarist more concerned with feeling through her words than the mundane recording of events, although these underpin the emotions that well up from the pages. A thirteenth birthday list reveals the teenager on the brink o excitement and adventure, “Teens are the best years”. They are the time of the Blue Light Discos,of the first period, of change and of a school exchange to France and her age of sexual awakening.

The years pass and the present moves into the past which remains ever present on the pages of a diary that Snelling has kept for twenty six years. In its pages lie the personal accounts of her encounters with men, of her years in France, her time in the United Kingdom and Berlin and her return to Australia and reunion with a father in crisis. Between the lines lie the emotions, the questions, the existential search for meaning and the confusion, the self-doubt and the vanity. Familiar songs with reworked lyrics lend meaning to personal recollection. The baggage of the years, recorded now for all time, charts the trials, the tribulations and the delights of Snelling’s life. Underneath it all is the sound of the calliope, ever turning, ever sounding out its circular tune. Is that the message that leaps from the page of her diaries?
I am charmed by Snelling’s vivacity, her clever transition from narration to song to dance and to moments of quiet reflection. The years possess their distinct and changing character and I am fully engaged in her personal story. And then it is suddenly interrupted. Snelling introduces a game show, Ask Diary, in which an audience member is invited to ask a question about their own life. It is participation with purpose but open to trivialization. It is Snelling’s story I have come to hear, and the sudden injection of any other story has interrupted my engagement in her performance.
Snelling’s account of the value and the virtue of keeping a diary and her engaging honesty make DearDiary a charming and illuminating confessional. Her recording of hope, fears, disappointments and dreams never becomes self-indulgent and the moments of self-pity contain a truth that universalizes the human experience. Dear Diary is an unpretentious show told with honesty and charm by a performer who lights up the stage with the story of her life. And perhaps it  may encourage audiences to take up the pen to record their passage of their life with the words that launch a million memories – “Dear Diary”