Watershed: The Death of Dr Duncan @ Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide 5/3/2022

The creative partners of this show include Feast Festival, State Opera of SA, Adelaide Uni and others have every right to be proud of this fantastic show. Watershed is an incredibly poignant, powerful and moving performance that skilfully weaves in history, collective memory and social commentary.

This grand oratorio about Dr George Duncan’s life, his death and the social impact was created by some extremely talented individuals. The director is Neil Armfield, the current joint artistic director of the Adelaide Festival, and Joseph Twist the musical composer with celebrated playwright Alana Valentine and famed author Christos Tsiolkas writng the story. Everything about this production was perfect. Pelham Andrews and Mark Oates from our State Opera and previous festivals sang brilliantly. Ainsley Melham as the narrator and Mason Kelly as the dancer made the whole thing even more special. The Adelaide Chamber singers all individually shined and the orchestra was superb. The music is so joyous and passionate I hope that it gets an official audio release.

The performance is timely as it is 50 years after Dr Duncan’s death in a theatre overlooking the Torrens where he was drowned. The venue is named for Don Dunstan who was our current Premier at the time of the events and it was he who helped instigate the decriminalisation of homosexuality in South Australia which was triggered by the public outrage in our state.

As a South Australian, I have known of the shameful, indecent crime that the show is based on and this telling of it is unflinching and pulls no punches. For the first third of the play, we see the only photo of Duncan on the screen behind the performers staring at the audience and it feels like he was imploring us for justice. I walk along the River Torrens nearly every day and the next time I am near the university footbridge where it happened, I will be thinking of how shameful it is that 50 years after Duncan’s death his murderers are still free.

Adelaide Festival Review By Richard De Pizzol