Perth Festival Review: Inua Ellams’ The Midnight Run is an enjoyable and rewarding art filled night-time sojourn

Yesterday evening, I, and about 40 or so others, braved the heat and humidity and took part in Perth’s first ever Midnight Run – organised as part of the Perth International Arts Festival.

What is a Midnight Run you ask?

The Midnight Run is the brainchild of poet, performer and artist Inua Ellams. It’s a night time, arts-filled, walking tour of a city. Influenced by the political and artistic movement The Situationists, The Midnight Run seeks to reclaim the city streets, facilitate the coming together of strangers and to allow participants to discover more about their own city and about themselves. And like me, you’ll perhaps me glad to discover that despite the name, no running is required. The Perth edition of The Midnight Run was what the organisers dub a “Mini Midnight Run” meaning it only goes for 6 hours – not 12 hours like Ellams has run in the past – so no all night wandering for us.

We were a diverse crowd, a good mix of ages and backgrounds; some of us were artists, writers, or musicians – whilst others were scientists and teachers. Our common link it seemed was to take part in a festival event that was a little different, and experience our shared city in a different light.

I for one decided to take part, in part as a challenge to myself, as a bit of an introvert it to me seemed like the perfect opportunity to get out of my comfort zone, meet new people and just see where the night took me. And now a day later I look back at that decision with no regrets. It was an evening of interesting, insightful and wonderful conversation, about everything from perceived existential crises to the hidden meanings in Disney films. It was an evening of finding shared interests, new perspectives and trying as a group to work out how to form triangles, circles and the number 4 without too much difficulty (we pretty much succeeded!).

Amongst the group were a number of artists or facilitators, who at different points during our nocturnal sojourn through the city, would lead us in different exercises or activities that would prompt us to look at ourselves, each other, and our city in new and different ways. These activities and experiences, like us participants, were quite varied as well.

Our first stop was an urban farm run by Greenworld Revolution, here we were encouraged to explore the space via torchlight, learn more about the farm and their work, and sample some of their produce. I have eaten at a number of the restaurants that Greenworld supply to, but had it not been for The Midnight Run I would likely have had no idea that Greenworld Revolution existed, nor would I have found out about the valuable and commendable work that they do with the unemployed.

The second stop of the evening found us backstage at His Majesty’s Theatre in one of the rehearsal rooms or dance studios. Here we were taken through a number of dance and performance exercises designed to enhance our awareness of ourselves as well as those around us. It seems even artists can’t resist a good trust exercise, so partnered up we took turns in leading each other around the room – first by hand, palms to palms, and then by either the chin, shoulders, elbows or hips. It was an interesting experience to say the least, but one that for me at least was enjoyable – a whole different sensory experience.

The third stop of the evening coincided, much to everyone’s delight, with dinner. But before any devouring could take place, first though we were treated to a crash course in how to make the dish, Lamb Biryani, by one of the artist’s mothers. Thankfully there we got to eat one that she’d prepared earlier. Dinner was followed up with a guided poetry writing exercise led by Ellams. For many in the group this was a new experience, for me at least it was a welcome opportunity to write poetry for the first time in ages. Did I write anything good? who knows, but it was fun to put pen to paper, and hear some of the wonderful work written by the group on the fly.

Our penultimate stop of the evening found the group forming a 40 piece flute ensemble underneath the Perth Concert Hall, putting into practice some of the research undertaken by Zahl and Jean Michelle from WAAPA’s Spectrum. Each of us were given a specially designed flute, and asked to play along to a video score, and I didn’t think we sounded too bad – though I think that was probably thanks to the flutes design – not any collective musical talent on our parts.

The final stop of the evening was perhaps the most enjoyable. Sat amongst a torchlit lantern circle on the corner of Langley Park we were treated to the history of the Nyoongar people, specifically the Whadjuk tribe on whose lands we had spent the evening wandering. Omar, the artist facilitating that stop, also told us the most puntastic of dreamtime stories about the “Land of Bits and Pieces” before demonstrating the different storytelling, rhythmic and healing properties of the didgeridoo. It was interesting, informative and funny and a great reminder that this city, Perth, has a much greater, richer and longer history than many would care to admit – as indeed does this country.

Whilst my feet are a little sore today, I can safely say that taking part in The Midnight Run was a wholly enjoyable and rewarding experience. It may seem quite a simplistic thing to say, but it was a fun evening. I met new and interesting people, took part in wonderful conversations that occasionally bordered on the ridiculous and discovered more about the city I’ve called home for a number of years now, and learnt more about some of the people and artists that also call this place home. After spending six hours with these people it felt strange, come midnight, to just leave and walk to our cars. In many ways it is quite hard to review something like this; I think after all each of us would have perhaps got something different out of the experience. I would certainly take part in something like this again, and certainly would recommend it to all. If you see it come to your city – do it!

The Midnight Run also takes place tonight 4th March on the streets of Perth. For more information on The Midnight Run and to see if its coming to a city near you visit HERE

The reviewer took part on 3rd March

Header Image from The Midnight Run website