Hamilton Gardens, Rogers Rose Garden, Hamilton

27/02/2016 - 28/02/2016

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2016

Production Details

The Dust Palace

New-circus theatre company The Dust Palace brings you a thrilling show – confined entirely to the heaped stack of furniture which makes up the set. The four performers hand balance, clown and contort, telling stories with their bodies on the sailing ship they’ve created.

In the land of wonder and wisdom where rain glitters and pirate ships are common on land… there lives a wondrous companionship of characters. Giggles, contortion, adventures, tea parties, and awesome pirate battles ensue… all in order to sort out who exactly, definitively and indefinitely is at… the TOP OF THE HEAP.

It’s a ramble through the brambles in a topsy-turvy world of upside down amazement.


Sat 27 & Sun 28 Feb 2016


3:30pm Sat
12pm & 3pm Sun


Rogers Rose Garden

Tickets  from

$29 Adult
$19 Concession

– See more at:

Cirque-aerial-theatre , Clown , Theatre ,

45 mins

Quirkily innovative and busily full of fun

Review by Dr Debbie Bright 29th Feb 2016

My favourite describing words would be ‘busy’ and ‘fun’. But, I must also include imagination, fantasy, comedy, humour, risk, and, of course, skill. I could go on! This show has it all in terms of appeal-to-all-ages, gymnastic and contortion feats, drama and generally great entertainment. The show is based on a lop-sided (but firmly secured) pile of furniture and many, many oddments and hidden treasures, most of which are used at some point.   The set looks as if a student flat and an op-shop have been scoured (which they likely have been!) for interesting drawers, couches, bookshelves, tables, chairs, items of clothing, a bath, a blanket, a lamp, an electric fan, a leaf blower, a smoking pipe, china tea service, life ring, telescope, fishing rod, umbrella, newspaper, and myriad other nicknacks. The set alone is intriguing and my mind is blown considering the huge number of individual items, some seen and others revealed as the show proceeds, and how difficult this set must be to construct and pack out. The whole ‘construction’ stands in front of and linked to a raised platform in a tent.   

While being intrigued by the detail and quirkiness of the set, we, the audience, sit in the hot afternoon sun, accepting shelter from large sun umbrellas where available. Some audience members (mainly children) sit on the grass in front, some sit on the chairs provided, while others have brought their own camp chairs, wheelchairs, picnic rugs or cushions. We can smell the February remnants of the extensive rose gardens and hear sounds of other acts taking place around the Gardens. In our space, recorded music plays and, at a certain point, two of the performers, followed by a third, appear, climbing and slithering over, under, through and around the set, settling to ‘sleep’ on a couch, in the bath, on a shelf. The fourth performer arrives a little later, ‘rowing’ through the audience with the aid of skateboard and mop. The four performers are two men and two women.

We are treated to an hour of busy-ness, feats of gymnastic- and contortion- strength, skill and flexibility and through it all, one large and numerous small scenarios of the imagination that I am sure all audience members ‘get’, whatever their age. Drama, melodrama, bright faces, exaggerated emotions, laughter. We see the four players working alone, in pairs, in a three and one, or as a group of four, as they interact rapidly, or balance in seemingly impossible, and sometimes alarmingly risky, places. We quickly see that the set becomes a ship and the grass, the sea. Books and pictures are used as stepping stones and islands. There are scenarios of rescue, being left out, fishing, reading the paper, tea parties, searching for lost friends, boyfriend-girlfriend, competitors, partners-in-adventure, and a gang of friends. I am constantly reminded of how children will turn any object into an imaginary toy, tool, weapon or aid, and how their groupings often form and morph as interest and engagement change. It appears to me that almost nothing is achieved simply. If there is a gymnastic way of moving or doing something, then the gymnastic way is used. Bodies, at times, become leavers, pulleys, cranes, bridges, and then transform quickly back into people, co-conspirators, friends. 

The music is unobtrusive yet sets the spacing and mood of the performance. This means, for instance, that when the music is bright and rhythmic, there is likely to a busy flurry of activities, of individual and group scenarios played out, of fast movement and balances. Similarly, when the music is slower and more lyrical, the performers’ movements and balances are smoother, slower, more drawn out, and the interactions between performers gentle or calmly directed towards achieving a desired rescue, resuscitation, or moment of comforting.

‘Top of the Heap’ is a work that fits snuggly into the context of this ‘Gardens Arts Festival’. It is fast-moving, full of imaginative and innovative elements, colourful, quirky, and with rapid changes of mood and emotion.  Paper is blown, sparklers lit, and the audience is drawn into the middle of the action. A show that definitely appeals to children of all ages. Yet the skill level of the performers is undeniable, and simultaneous actions and imaginary scenarios mean that any audience member is easily absorbed into the show, interest piqued, imagination stretched, always hovering on the edge of laughter, or gasping and applauding at the risk and skill of these four young performers. Great stuff! 


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