Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Cut The Sky

Here's my Sydney Arts Guide review http://www.sydneyartsguide.com.au/cut-the-sky-drama-theatre-sydney-opera-house/ Broome-based theatre/dance company Marrugeku has brought this thought provoking, challenging and disturbing production to Sydney as part of the Sydney Festival. The show premiered last year as part of the Perth Festival. CUT THE SKY presents its concept from an Indigenous perspective, expressed via the poems of Edwin Lee Mulligan and its focus on the 1979 Noonkanbah protests, when the US company AMAX, escorted by hundreds of police, forced its way through Yungngora community pickets to drill for oil on sacred land. The piece also includes Bill Grayden’s annoying, patronising speech to the local indigenous people, the effect of which was devastating. The show blends contemporary dance, theatre, music, indigenous storytelling, singing, and video installation in a shattering production that is divided into five sections. It starts, like The Tempest, in the middle of a storm. Jumping forward and back in time, it covers conflict with mining companies, flora and fauna destruction and abnegation of the marginalised, the perfidy of a government and state system that demands that its subjects trust it, whilst at the same time betraying them. The black, textured set is relatively bare apart from a huge gas pipeline heavily rearing up from the floor of the stage. Towards the back is hung a huge length of fabric which also acts as a projection screen. The cast in their assorted clothes, at times reinforcing the poverty, with torn plastic bag like costumes, are sometimes almost hidden from view either side of the stage until they emerge to continue the action. There are original songs from soul singer Ngaiire and indigenous songs as well as covers from Nick Cave and Buffalo Springfield, sung live with thrilling effect by Ngaire Pigram wearing a lime green corset and high platform boots. Pigram, in an enveloping blue plastic cloak, represents something akin to a spirit of the land. Most of the creative team originally comes from Belgium, with associates of Belgium’s Les Ballet C de la B credited as core creators. As well as Marrugeku’s Rachel Swain (concept and direction) and Dalisa Pigram (concept and choreography), there is choreography from Serge Aimé Coulibaly and dramaturgy by Hildegard de Vuyst. The influences are many….there is a Lucy Gearin influence, at times a Rafael Bonachela influence, and some traditional indigenous dance phrases, still the predominant stylistic influence and inprint is Les Ballet C de la B, with the dancers giving superb performances featuring incredibly powerful yet lethally soft rolls, turns, ‘neurotic twitches’ and slithery floorwork, all full of explosive energy. Nyikina-Walmajarri artist, poet and storyteller Edwin Lee Mulligan is essentially the main spokesperson of the cast of six. He articulates an Aboriginal perspective about the relationship of people to the land, set against a backdrop of video footage that depicts scenes such as the hostile beauty of the desert, devastation wrought by natural disasters, the extraordinary hostile beauty of the desert, large termite mounds, and the physical impact of open-cut mining on the environment. He delivers his warning in gentle, earthy tones. Co-choreographer and Marrugeku co-director, Pigram had a major role too delivering one astonishing monologue. A pocket dynamo encased in a miner’s safety harness, she also comes to represent mining machinery cogs, that disjointedly yet repeatedly slide and slip though each other. In a separate dynamic monologue highlight, Miranda Wheen, wearing a bio-hazard suit whilst whispering/chanting scientific warnings, under her breath, and leaping around the stage with explosive energy. Her hissing like sounding breath and the soft rustle of her suit made her performance quite ominous and sinister. This was a bleak, challenging and confronting production that is likely to lead to much discussion afterwards. Running time 70 mins without interval. Marrugeku Theatre Company’s production of CUT THE SKY played the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House between the 14th and 17th January.

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