Trauma, neuroscientists say, increases the size of the amygdala, the region of the brain responsible for fear, but also creativity and emotional expression.
Amanda Palmer has experienced so much trauma in her life that it took four hours to lay it bare. She possesses such artistry and sincerity, though, that even after 240 minutes seated on wooden Bonython Hall seats, fans ferociously called for an encore.
In the age of attention spans rotted by smart phones and social media, it is a brave artist that presents a four-hour show entitled ‘There Will Be No Intermission’, even when, in fact there is an intermission. Amanda Palmer’s Fringe show is longer than 'Avengers: Endgame', but stars only a single superhero; it’s longer than operas such as Gounod’s 'Faust', but there’s no orchestra or chorus and only a single costume change. That Amanda can captivate for so long, armed with only a piano, a ukulele and the truth, is a testament to her charisma and authenticity.
She took inspiration for this show from Hannah Gadsby’s ‘Nanette’ and the marathon performances of rock evangelists Nick Cave and Bruce Springsteen. In the show’s first act, Amanda spoke more than she sang, about pubescent sexual assault and restraint without consent, about a trilogy of abortions, death threats and cancer and parenthood. As she quipped, for any members of the audience in attendance uninitiated to her work, the darkness and the length of the show might be intolerable.
Amanda Palmer fans, though, the international community of patrons, are drawn to the darkness of her work because, for whatever reason, their lives have been touched by the dark in some way too. She’s been able to find some light in it, though, and by bringing her experiences out from the shadows, she grants permission for others to do the same, and maybe in the process, to let go of the toxic shame that comes from keeping quiet.
Amanda knows when to alternate between the darkness and the light, though; this was a show that was as funny as it was sad, as she gave new meaning to Disney princess ballads from 'The Little Mermaid' and 'Frozen' while lighting the gothic great hall with a disco ball. As fire trucks battled a multi-story blaze across the road in Rundle Mall, the mall where Amanda once performed as a street artist 20 years ago, she was able to confront our nation’s summer of bushfire tragedy, to rally the masses with her rendition of Midnight Oil’s ‘Beds Are Burning’, one cut from a forthcoming bushfire fundraising album.
If Amanda Palmer ever tires of being an artist and an advocate, she could probably start a revolution, an insurrection, a cult or a commune. Maybe in a post-apocalyptic future, we can choose to live in Palmerville. Until then, we can only speculate about how much Amanda Palmer is too much; for now we just know that four hours is not enough.