Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bloodland Review

This is a scene from a new major ingidenous work, Bloodland, which received thunderous applause when it opened at the Queensland Performing Art Centre's 880-seat Playhouse on Thursday evening.

This multi-meadia show, which features dance, music, drama, comedy and tragedy, is the brainchild of Bangarra Dance Theatre's artistic dirctor Stephen Page and a large creative contingent, including storyteller Kathy Balngayngu Marika and writer Wayne Blair.

Ironically this production is the complete antithesis of the popular, mainstream Disney musical, Mary Poppins, playing next door at the Lyric Theatre. There is room on the menu for both shows and more.

 Briefly, it tells the story of two indigenous families living in a remote community who have to come to terms with their heritage and life in the 21st century. It is a challenging and powerful examination of black-on-black conflict as worlds collide and there's no easy answers.

The work is both moving, and sometimes funny, but at its core is a delicate forbidden story of love, which leads to tragedy and ultimately ritual. The work, which features a cast of 12 indigenous actors and runs for about 90 minutes, is the product of a remarkable united effort.

Among the individuals and organistions involved in bringing it to the stage are Page, the Queensland Theatre Company's artistic director,Wesley Enoch, the Sydney Theatre Company, the Adelaide Festival and Allens Arthur Robinson in association with the Bangarra Dance Theatre.

It is a sometimes difficult work - not least because it fuses traditional languages and Pidgin English - and audiences need to lean forward and really focus. It is also useful to read the Bloodland program notes, which are given out freely in a quality high glossy program.

Talking on Spencer Howson's 612 ABC breakfast radio show on Friday (March 16), I drew a comparison with the Summer of the 17th Doll.

I meant that when the Doll first came out in 1955/56 audiences were blown away to hear and see their story, their language and their everyday icons talked about on the stage in mainsteam Australia and later overseas.

Likewise, there were many indigenous groups at the Bloodland Brisbane premiere to hear their stories told in their voice. It is okay to be proud of your own voice. Bloodland continues until Sunday. It looks good,sounds good and in my opnion is very good theatre.

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