Amanda Palmer has created a deeply personal, autobiographical performance piece that resonates with passion and dignity. As the lead singer of the Dresden Dolls, Palmer is no stranger to controversy and never shies away from the difficult conversation.
“Cornflake Girl” by Tori Amos fills Bonython Hall, signally the arrival of Amanda Palmer. Dressed in a dark suit and sporting an ukulele, she finds her way through the crowd and sings about her future me. “I want to live before I die, I want to die before I see.”
There Will Be No Intermission is a complete project; a show, an album, a book and within it, the artist bares all. Bonython Hall is the venue, resplendent with high ornate carved ceilings and a sloping floor (which rules out dancing) and even self-confessed agnostic Amanda says that the building feels haunted. Adelaide feels haunted. Adelaide has a special place for Amanda as she met her husband, writer Neil Gaiman there during her first festival visit.
One of her friends and mentor, Anthony taught her about Radical Compassion, where everyone, even murderers deserve compassion and understanding. This led to a public backlash when she wrote a piece trying to understand the Boston Marathon Bomber. Similarly, a joking piece about Taylor Swift led to a similar tsunami of online hate. But this show is not about controversy for controversy’s sake. It is about truth.
The audience at this performance is split about 50/50 between those that have seen Amanda Palmer before and those that have not. She half-jokingly says that the show is confronting and if anyone feels that they have to leave, she’ll understand. Tellingly, no-one left during the show; the audience was riveted to the storytelling.
The hardest stories were those of the abortions and the feelings, anxiety and hardships around them. The death of her best friend Anthony after a four-year battle with cancer. Childbirth, parenthood, miscarriage, the stories entwine each other and follow one after the next with a passion that only Amanda Palmer can bring. Interspersed are the songs and each is explained in the context of the events surrounding their creation.
By not being tied to a label, Palmer uses the Patreon model to raise funds for her artwork creation, which gives her greater freedom and control over the process and output. A four-hour show talking about abortion is probably not the easiest premise for a hit show, but it works. It also enables her to do other projects, such as the fundraiser album she produced while in Australia, raising funds for Firesticks, an Indigenous-led Cultural Fire program to support communities after our recent devastating fire crisis.
Palmer muses on how much of her life events she should tell, but references Nick Cave’s recent tour after the death of his son and Hannah Gadsby’s success with her own brand of dark humour. She arrived in Dublin, Ireland during the abortion repeal vote and was overwhelmed by the support she received and realised that people need to hear these difficult stories to help them overcome their own internal pain and sufferings.
She finished with the Ukulele song:
“It takes about an hour to teach
someone to play the ukulele
About same to teach someone
to build a standard pipe bomb
you do the math”
A standing ovation was a fitting finale to an extraordinary performance. Despite the title, there is actually an intermission during the show. As it was Adelaide Fringe opening night there were a few delays at the bar, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome with good humour. Amanda Palmer loves her audience and spent time after the show with her Patreon subscribers, signing autographs and taking photos. This show is a must for anyone that loves a good cry followed by a hearty laugh.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Amanda Palmer’s website has more details about the project and upcoming shows:
Feb 20th, 2020: Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Feb 22nd, 2020, Perth Festival
Feb 29th, 2020: Darwin Entertainment Centre