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February 17, 2017

19 weeks at the Adelaide Fringe

A theatre show with depth, performed at a basement pool.

  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Josh Geelen

The perfect place for reflection is by the water.

Taking that notion one step further is playwright Emily Steel, who’s decided the perfect place to perform a reflective piece of theatre is by the basement pool at the Treasury Hotel.


19 weeks runs for three weeks at the Adina Treasury Hotel from Wednesday to Saturday, with previews starting March 1.

Tickets are available here.

Written by Emily, directed by Daisy Brown, and performed by Tiffany Lyndall Knight, 19 weeks is an autobiographical story about Emily’s experience with a 19-week pregnancy termination.

“I had a termination at 19 weeks of pregnancy after the baby was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, and obviously it’s a hugely difficult thing to go through,” Emily says.

“One of the difficulties is how you then talk to people, because at that stage you’ve gone through the thing where you’ve told people that you’re pregnant, so everybody knows, and then you have to tell them that you’re not.

Playwright Emily Steel

“I’d made the decision that I was going to tell people the truth… and I was kind of expecting people to have a bit of a reaction. What actually happened was people just opened up and told me things about themselves that I hadn’t known… about miscarriages they’d had, or abortions they’d had.

“There just seemed to be all of this stuff that people don’t get to talk about very often, and it seemed like actually telling these stories publicly could be really powerful.”

As for the poolside space, it was a spot Emily and Daisy happened upon while scouting for a location for their upcoming State Umbrella show, Rabbits.

“We walked past the pool, and we kind of went ‘That’s an amazing space,’ and we just sort of went ‘Let’s just keep that in our back pocket as a space that we might use for a show one day,’” Emily says.

“When I talked to Daisy about the idea of 19 weeks, we thought we should find an unusual space. We wanted to find something that, because the subject can appear very heavy, or a very issue-based sort of a show, we wanted to find somewhere that would be an exciting venue, might give it a bit of lightness, and people would go ‘Oh, let’s go see that, it’s in a swimming pool.’”

There are challenges to performing in a less orthodox space, like lighting, acoustics, performing in, on, and around water, and finding out how receptive the front row of an audience will be to dipping their legs into the pool, but Emily expects the effort to only add to the overall experience.

“I think when you’ve got conventional theatre spaces and you build the set and you make it look how you want it to look, that’s one thing, and then if you have a non-theatre space that you’re going to use for performance, it has… all these problems you need to solve, and actually I think it enriches the piece,” she says.

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