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BLOODLAND

March 30th 2012 13:47
: Adelaide Festival
Sarah Tomlinson was sent off to see the collaboration between Sydney Theatre Company and the Bangarra DanceTheatre called BLOODLAND and after much thought she filed this report:

Bloodland felt like a gate I wanted to open but couldn't.

Caught behind it, I could only watch from a distance, desperately trying to work out what my place and responsibility could have been in the story.

And this position changed frequently. -
Sarah Tomlinson


Bloodland felt like a gate I was desperate to open but couldn't.


Caught behind it, I could only watch from a distance, trying desperately to work out what my place and responsibility could have been in the story.

And this position changed frequently.

Bloodland is a collaboration of the Sydney Theatre Company and the Bangarra DanceTheatre. Directed by Stephen Page and delivered so naturally by anall-indigenous cast, it tells of two families in Far East Arnhem Land; of tradition and modern influence, the social problems that plague them, and gently woventhrough, a story of love, bound by clan.

Ursula Yovich opens the program talking fast, moving disorientedly and gesturing wildly, unable to be comforted by an audience who instinctively leaned back in their seats and had trouble making eye contact as they failed to understand the language or the circumstances of her distress. The source of her despair would become known much later, but for the time being, it set the scene for an intensely private and privileged insight into a community.

Conversations of daily domestic matters, rites of passage, leadership, and traditional men and women's business flowed steadily through the on stage community interspersed with icons of present: footballs, iPods, a plastic bag of treasured mobile phones, and a shopping trolley neatly stacked with groceries meant to be shared.


Predominantly in theYolngu language, it was easy for the audience to distance themselves through long stretches of dialogue before a sudden, recognizable phrase in Pidgin English would pierce through the dark like a sudden realization, and force the audience to be a part of the conversation.

"Donkey" offered the comic relief. Played by David Page, this mangy dog sniffed inquisitively through the action on the stage, often being chastised for being in the way. Ultimately his character became Bapi, charged with passing on the news which led to the performances' wrenching climax.

Interrupting the main story line were a series of tableaux to make any earnest white audience member grown inwardly at our ignorance. From tongue-in-cheek David Attenborough style commentary on the perils of smoking, to a patriotic teacher with firm rules of the classroom, you can't help feeling entirely responsible that you're the reason you can't understand or follow the story.

Yet the story wasn't so exclusive that the audience wasn't allowed to feel on side with the characters. We enjoyed the gentle mocking from the mates, felt the restriction and isolation of tradition and were granted the right to be frustrated for Runu when Gapu, the 'Romeo and Juliet' of the story (played by Hunter Page-Lochard and Noelene Marika), was promised to an older member of the clan.

The set was kept simple. A chain link fence with a hole on one side, and long, tall white pipes suggestive of ghost gums gentle hinted that culture, tradition and circumstance cannot be kept in, or that hurt and harsh reality cannot be kept out. Cool moonlight, warm sun to a harsh institutional-fluorescent of a school lit up the Dunstan Playhouse.

The movements, instantly recognizable as the Bangarra Dance Theatre, were fluid and stirring from every turn of a dance, to the action of smearing the body in white to mourn.Cathartic wailing of loss were turned into song.

In the end however,despite my desperation to understand and learn from the performance, Bloodland didn't place blame on anyone. It was as much about the characters trying to make themselves understood within their own community as it was for wider Australia. It was about family,love and grieving, the value of culture and accepting what is, without explanationor solution.

Bloodland


Bloodland is a collaboration of the Sydney Theatre Company and the Bangarra DanceTheatre. Directed by Stephen Page and delivered so naturally by an all-indigenous cast. It tells of two families in Far East Arnhem Land; of tradition and modern influence, the social problems that plague them, and gently woven through, a story of love, bound by clan.

Sydney Theatre Company, Adelaide Festival and Allens Arthur Robinson in association with Bangarra Dance Theatre present

Bloodland

Concept by Stephen Page

Story by Kathy Balngayngu Marika, Stephen Page and Wayne Blair

Written by Wayne Blair

Stephen Page, Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre and award-winning choreographer, collaborated with writer and actor Wayne Blair on this landmark work.

From three photographs that formed the seed of an idea, Stephen and Wayne developed this original work collaborating with local storytellers in Arnhem Land.

Bloodland examines the classic theme of forbidden love, while also exploring issues of black-on-black conflict, and the challenges of observing traditional lore in a community permeated by Western culture.

Featuring an Indigenous cast of twelve including established urban actors as well as traditional Yolngu storytellers, the production fuses traditional languages and Pidgin English as well as dance and song to tell the story. Bloodland promises to be a unique work of scale and cultural significance.

Warning: Mild Violence

1 hour 40 Minutes, no interval

With Kathy Balngayngu Marika, Elaine Crombie, Rarriwuy Hicks, Rhimi Johnson Page, Banula Marika, Nolene Marika, David Page, Hunter Page Lochard, Kelton Pell, Tessa Rose, Meyne Wyatt, Ursula Yovich
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