In 2012, I attended the Next Wave Festival as a mentee with their Text Camp program for emerging arts writers and critics. It was incredibly special to return to their 2014 festival as a critic with Guardian Australia. The art and the people and the ideas of the past two weeks have left me feeling invigorated and excited, and my perceptions on the world are a little bit shifted. I may write up broader thoughts about the festival at a later date – after a few days off for recovery – but for now, here are the reviews I wrote over the past two weeks.
Placing this audio work in front of an audience returns radio to a stage of shared experience that has largely been lost as we now listen to the radio and podcasts alone in cars or through headphones on public transport. Here, you feel the collective lean of the audience into Cox’s storytelling; a joke or a detail only fully appreciated by one audience member is highlighted as their laugh carries through the theatre. But in this live form, things are lost, too, and I can’t do what I love to do with a complex podcast that grabs my heart and my mind: press replay, and listen to it all again.
A plethora of pop culture references – everything from Alien to Sarah Murdoch miss-announcing the winner of Australia’s Next Top Model – begin to feel exclusionary. If they go over your head, can you truly engage with the work? And when you don’t recognise something as a direct allusion, is that because it is unique to the text of Madonna Arms or is it yet another reference you don’t get?
SEETHrough plays with interesting ideas of an unrealised intimacy between men, framed by violence for fear of true physical closeness, and it has all the elements to create a strong work. Co-devised by Kinchela and Walters and directed by Isaac Drandic, the work fluctuates between staged poetry, a play and physical theatre. Unfortunately, none of these performance genres are explored with sufficient strength, and the themes of the work become lost.
Maximum isn’t dance which hides the physical toll on the body in the search for illusionary effortlessness. Instead, the toll is the point: the haggard breaths, sweating foreheads, shaking thighs. We see bodies pushed to the limits when we watch sport – and we may even push our own bodies there – but when we watch athletes we’re watching for their achievement and their completion of the task at hand: exhaustion is a symptom but not the goal.
I didn’t leave The Club 3.0 inspired. I don’t feel a need to fight to acknowledge the fact that one day I’m going to die. I don’t regret not choosing to get in a fight during the show. The artists didn’t earn the right to motivate me in change, or questioning, or action. Instead, I left dejected. If two young men want to set up a fight club with their friends, that’s one thing. To think the story of it makes an interesting stage work is another.
Hex is a largely allegorical work, Welsby keen to explore and contextualise emotions rather than directly tell a story of the crisis. In this, he builds small worlds that are at times sad and at times joyous, often bringing up ambiguous emotions in their complex and painful story. His choreography is a tribute to those who have been lost, but also a celebration of the community they shaped, and which continues to grow. It is a powerful work.
Slowly, Sheppard’s text shifts and this parody of perceptions of entitlement, and of choosing to identify as an Indigenous person for personal gain, turns into something more complex. She veers away from the satire as her character begins to realise the lineage and cultural knowledge she has lost: an experience and a pain that continues to be shared by many in Australia’s stolen generations. This tonal shift leaves a lot of room to be further developed, its intricacies explored, but in this short monologue Sheppard presents a very interesting voice.