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  • Kate Gaul

The Ceremony - Adelaide Fringe 2024

The Ceremony

The Courtyard of Curiosities

Ben Volchok, master of “The Ceremony”, is one the most intriguing characters I have encountered in the theatre for a long time.  Some shows just scream pure Fringe and “The Ceremony” is one of them.  Unique, intellectually spiky, spurious, definitely silly!  Playing in the mediative surrounds to The Chapel at the Migration Museum this is an experience rather than a performance.

A quick post show google tells me that Ben Volchok is a Melbourne based comedian who peddles his own style of stand-up/solos shows.  He creates multidisciplinary art across theatre, comedy, fiction, audio, and design. I was attracted to the blurb as is mentioned “The Ceremony” wasn’t about cults.  Just the mere mention of a cult gets my blood racing, and I was in. So how to describe this event – it is experimental and definitely interactive.  In fact, no two shows would ever be alike as Ben Volchok relies on the audience to construct the substance of the show.  He has the format – the (not) ritual falls into four parts.  On our chairs are slips of paper and a pen.  After a hilarious introduction about what the show is and is not – as well as several disclaimers – we are asked to name and write a meaningful event from our past.  Most of these are then read out to both hilarious and poignant effect.   We move then from the past though the present to the future.  Volchok as a great way of dealing with the existential aspects of our relationship to time. But the big philosophical questions remain – Who and Why are we?  How do we create meaning?

Described accurately as part sermon, part group therapy, part comedy show, “The Ceremony” asks us to consider tradition in our contemporary world. As we rummage through our collective pasts/presents/futures we build a wholly new ceremony to take home for personal use. As if the ideas around this show aren’t deep enough what makes “The Ceremony” really special is Volchok’s desire (and ability) to remain present with his flock and it is that gift we are left.  The take-away just might be that we are slightly less afraid to contemplate our existence or at least know we are all in a similar boat. And perhaps to hold our humanity lightly.

We all need a version of “The Ceremony” in our lives – mmm – but that starts to sound cultish and this is (not a cult).

Kate Gaul



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