Performance review: Future Cargo, Adelaide Fringe Festival

Alien arrivals distinguish a mesmerising dance performance.
Future Cargo. Two figures in silver bodysuits moving across a panel.

A large truck rumbles as it parks in The Garden of Unearthly Delights. From the local radio playing in the cab, we hear people sharing their personal accounts of a spaceship landing. The shipping container’s side panel opens, revealing the “alien” arrivals and marking the beginning of Future Cargo.

This contemporary dance show brings the coolest technical tricks to transport audiences from the bustle of the Adelaide Fringe and invite them to make contact with these other-worldly visitors. With Future Cargo produced by the team behind the shipping container-based hit, DARKFIELD, expectations for a flawless immersive experience are high. And technology and choreography are mastered, with the performers only stumbling slightly with navigating an outdoor space.

All audience members are provided with wireless headphones to wear throughout the performance. They muffle the surrounding noise and, once the soundtrack begins, this is all that’s audible. It creates an intimate environment, making it easy to be swept up in the smooth dreamy music with which the show commences.

Sound effects, like dogs barking, are mixed in to provide a sense of the direction they are coming from – the left, the right, behind. It strengthens the sense of being engulfed in the proceedings, but it doesn’t last because the music for the dances always sounds like it is coming from the shipping container.

If Future Cargo had mixed the music to gradually become surround sound, it have would provided a better sense of full immersion, to align with the truck’s radio news reports that are played intermittently through the performance. The use of silence also doesn’t provide the intended effect of drawing focus to the choreography, but instead lets in the noise of other shows, breaking concentration. These are small gripes that are ultimately easy to look beyond as the music and choreography are mesmerising.

The choreography is predominately slow, smoothly-controlled movements. Dancers are transported on a conveyor belt at a steady pace, from the back to the front of the container. As these “aliens” explore aspects of human life, like playing tennis and holding balloons, the choreographic style turns these normal actions into something that feels bizarre. This strangeness is supported by the silver leotard costumes that cover whole heads and faces, turning the dancers into sparkling humanoid figures.

The audience seating is set up several metres away from the truck with only grass between. It’s an odd choice for a show the objective of which is to explore the idea of making contact with aliens. We are so far away and the distance prevents connection.

During one dance, the aliens push against the clear barrier keeping them in the container, but the impact of that action is minimised because it looks small and unthreatening, or uninviting.

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Future Cargo uses technology to pull in its audience and then uses dynamic choreography to lead us through a bizarre and fun experience. The organisers still have some finessing to do in terms of accommodating it for the external environment but, generally, all elements speak to each other and the show is engrossing from the moment it starts.

Future Cargo
Requardt & Rosenberg
The Garden of Unearthly Delights

Tickets: $20-$40

Future Cargo will be performed until 20 March 2024 as part of Adelaide Fringe Festival.

Anita Sanders is a writer based in South Australia. She has written for radio, print and stage including The City street magazine, Radio Adelaide and South Australian Youth Arts Company. She is a graduate of Flinders University’s Bachelor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing) and Deakin University’s Graduate Certificate of Business (Arts & Cultural Management).