Review: Ira Glass, Monica Barnes, Anna Bass: Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host – Sydney Opera House (17.07.16)

In Ira Glass’ own words, this was a melding of two mediums no one ever asked to see in the same show. A mashup (for want of a better term) of radio and interpretive dance, Three Acts, Two Dancers… could be the most pretentious thing you might ever see, but is far from it. The famous broadcaster brings his trademark warmth and wit to the stage, with a veritable range of stories from the This American Life vaults. Interwoven throughout are spectacular dance routines by Monica Barnes and Anna Bass; some as a response to the stories being told, and others as standalone pieces.

Covering all bases from death to marriage to collaboration to love and loss, the stories intertwine in a loose way that’s typical of the radio show, with Glass’ usual laconic-yet-authoritative style stinging it all together with anecdotes and off-the-cuff banter. The true depth of the show, however, comes from the dancers, who characterize each story in extremely unique ways, often with little music.

One segment has them perform a routine while the audience listens to a recording of Barnes talk about what how she feels while onstage next to the often competitive Bass, while another has dazzling acrobatic balancing tricks. They are the reverse dialogue to Glass’ way with words; using their bodies to convey the same emotional weight.

The thread that links the show together is the simple human element to the stories which Glass is known for bringing out of his subjects, and even when working with the least vocal of all performance mediums, he still manages to give it a voice.


Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host wrapped up its Australian tour at the Opera House tonight. To find out where it’s heading next, visit their official website.

Photo Credit: Daniel Boud


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