Binge Fringe Magazine

REVIEW: Between The Curtains, Anita Lovell, Adelaide Fringe 2024 ★★★★☆

At the age of twenty, Anita Lovell was admitted to hospital with severe stomach pains. A long stint in the waiting room, and one unforgettable rectal exam later, her life as a professional patient began. It’s not a life you’d wish on anyone, but with humour, wit and the most infectious of energy Anita Lovell turns lived experience into a lesson in patience, gratitude and humanity. Between The Curtains is a one woman show that brings to life the loves and losses that exist in the shared space of sickness, death and recovery.

As someone who has been fortunate enough to spend their twenties at university, nannying and backpacking around Australia it is inconceivable to imagine what early adulthood in a hospital ward means. That being said, I am someone who has spent many years working in care homes; bringing food and drink to elderly residents whose life is reduced to the same walls of one building. A sense of claustrophobia is my lasting impression of care homes. I will always remember the relief I felt stepping into the outside world at the end of every shift.  Cycling home was an exercise in freedom. Watching Lovell dance, perform, and make animate her IV drip, catheter and bedpan, I wondered if a similar feeling of claustrophobia makes movement an integral part of Lovell’s show and character.

Certainly, the form her days took in hospital was one of constant movement: refilling her ice cup, walking around the nurses’ station, checking on the pill depository, visiting her ward-mates, and the returning to bed for five minutes. Then leaving again. And again. And again. At night, when her body is still, it is her brain’s turn to be restless. Whipping out a strobe light, a bubble gun, and dancing between the audience to Lionel Ritchie’s ‘All Night Long’, Lovell hilariously expresses the party happening inside her brain when she should be asleep. Undoubtedly her circular movements and insomnia are indicative of cabin fever, boredom and anxiety, but they are also indicative of her life force. To be moving is to be alive; to be motionless is to be dead, and Lovell, with her bright blue eyes and bouncing braids, is reminiscent of a curious toddler discovering the world with each step.

If movement is one method of surviving patient life, connection is the other. Through storytelling, Lovell  details how, in a matter of hours, someone can go from being a stranger to one of the loves of your life. Such is the binding power of shared trauma and the phenomenon of hospital life. Unfortunately, the condition of illness means that this connection can end as abruptly as it began. Equally, the connection Anita established with her caregivers, the cleaners, and her ward-mates, is made clear through the minute details and poignant details she shares with the audience. She notices things her visitors wouldn’t think to consider, humorously outlines how she is now the best hospital visitor, but also touchingly reflects on the blind-spots in the vision of a veteran patient.

Lovell is a natural performer and storyteller: her greatest assets are physical comedy and an effervescent spirit. There are details of her story that I wish had been shaded in with more depth, and as she jumps from anecdote to observation to comedy sketch the timeline of her illness becomes scrambled and confusing. However, as is clear from the show’s title, this performance is not a dot-to-dot drawing of Lovell’s life behind the curtains. It’s a series of snapshots through which Lovell shows hospital life as a journey between the revolving spaces of trauma, pain, gratitude, fear, anxiety, hope and healing.

Uplifting, poignant, and life-affirming, Between the Curtains is a show that crackles with energy and emotion.

Recommended Drink: Pink Lemonade with a dash of Vodka – Lovell’s show is the epitome of finding the good in the bad, with a dash of the hard stuff to awaken the senses.

Catch Between the Curtains until March 3rd. Tickets are available through the Adelaide Fringe Box Office.

Eilidh McKenzie

Eilidh is a writer, reader and avid watcher of film, television and theatre. She loves writing that blends comedy with darkness, and makes public the quirks of life and character that we've been taught to hide. She also aspires to be fluent in Spanish, but so far this has proved far harder than expected.

Festivals: Adelaide Fringe (2024)
Pronouns: She/Her