Rating : 4.5 stars

Review: The Imaginarium, The Sideshow (QLD)

Six acts look at the problem of single-use plastic from different angles.
Review: The Imaginarium, The Sideshow (QLD)

Performer Rebekah Yeo. Photo: Jesse Bowen-Saunders.

The Imaginarium is a theatrical show with a social purpose. The Sideshow’s first in-house production, The Imaginarium is an immersive theatre show dedicated to the theme of single-use plastic, timed to coincide with the Plastic Free July challenge that has millions of participants around the world.

With six acts brought together by a narrator, The Imaginarium uses different modes of storytelling to awaken the public to issues around plastic and pollution.


Acrobatic dancers Alice Muntz and David Carberry tell a very relatable story about the difficulty of avoiding single-use plastic in our daily activities. Carberry plays an everyday man who gets assaulted by a plastic monster played by Muntz. The act reminded me of something a friend of mine said about his Plastic Free July: going to the grocery shop and attempting to avoid plastic, he said, can be compared to the game The Floor is Lava.

Contact juggler Phil Humphreys also portrays the difficulty of avoiding plastic in his act, in which he progressively juggles more and more contact balls – but each new ball comes wrapped in plastic. By the end of his act, he is surrounded by a pile of plastic. The more balls he adds, the unhappier he becomes, despite the great tricks he is performing. Like Muntz and Carberry’s acrobatic dance, Humphreys’s act highlights the oppressive and ubiquitous nature of single-use plastic.

Performances from Emily Claire & the Wild Grace Dance Troupe and Rebekah Yeo zoom out from personal consumer struggles and immerse the audience into oceans polluted by bottles, plastic bags, and other plastic objects. The Wild Grace dancers, accompanied by musicians from the Queensland Conservatorium, depict ocean creatures whose become trapped in plastic. At the apex of the musical drama, the audience must witness the six dancers in agony, struggling to breathe through plastic.

Rebekah Yeo’s act is likewise dramatic. She performs as a mermaid who is trapped by a villain in a gas mask, representing sea pollution. The mermaid is pulled up on a metal structure and tied up using shibari techniques. It’s a confronting image that is impossible to ignore.   

While The Imaginarium focuses on the challenges of single-use plastic, the show leaves us with a message of hope and encouragement. Humphreys ends his act by putting his contact balls into a big reusable bag while Carberry ends his act by picking up all the plastic left by Muntz’s monster.

The strength of The Imaginarium is in its skilful combination of aesthetics and politics, of artistic skills and social purpose. This is commendable in its own right, but even more so given that this is a non-profit production and the first from The Sideshow as an independent artist-run space.   

4.5 stars out of 5 ★★★

The Imaginarium
Performers: Jason Maher, Thais S. Carvalho, Alice Muntz & David Carberry, Emily Claire, Phil Humphreys, Carissa White, Rebekah Yeo & Namaiki, and Brendan Rodwell
Musicians: Georgina Brindley, Sarah Trenaman, Anya Tang, Ariana Dedecius, Courtney Lovell, Pauline Park, Konstantin Simonov and Ethan May
26 July 2019
The Sideshow, West End, Brisbane QLD
Tickets $20

Federica Caso

Monday 12 August, 2019

About the author

Federica Caso is a political analyst and writer. She has recently completed her PhD in International Politics at the University of Queensland. Her research focuses on the politics of aesthetics and art. She is interested in how art and culture are co-opted in systems of power and domination, and used as instruments of political resistance. She has written, hosted events, and facilitated discussions about the politics of aesthetics. She is a board member of House Conspiracy, an art centre located in West End, Brisbane.