Thursday, 21 May 1998

Horizons & Kickin' up the Dust, May 21, 1998

Horizons & Kickin' up the Dust
David Williamson Theatre Swinburne University until May 30, 1998
Reviewed by Kate Herbert on or around May 20, 1998

In recent years, Australia has seen the rise of numerous successful aboriginal artists and companies in the mainstream theatre: Jack Davis, John Harding and Black Swan Theatre in Perth to mention some.

Until recently there has been no formal training in Melbourne for indigenous theatre workers but we are now seeing the first graduates emerging from the Swinburne University TAFE Small Companies and Community Theatre course designed specifically for aboriginal students.

With sponsorship from Next Wave, City of Melbourne and Australia Council, Horizons has been developed, under the direction of Peter Oyston, with continuing and graduate students .It is programmed in a double bill with Kickin' up the Dust by REM, an indigenous company from Wollongong.

The whole evening is memorable for its warmth and truthful storytelling. Horizons draws an interesting parallel between the First Settlement invasion of 1788 and a young aboriginal group who are illegally evicted from their house in 1998 to make way for a car park.

The cast's commitment to their story and the naturalness of their performances are the show's greatest strength. The level of skill is uneven and the structure very loose but the personal nature of the dialogue and the joy and ease with which it is delivered are more important in this context.

There are lively performances from Greg Fryer and Pauline Whyman but the highlight is a riveting monologue by 1996 graduate, Henry Goodwin. He speaks with great passion and eloquence to an aboriginal youth arrested for demonstrating. "We will take one day at a time, change one law at a time, reveal one crime at a time."

Kickin' up the Dust, directed Roger Rynd, features Maureen Watson as herself telling stories as an aboriginal woman coming to terms with her lot. She is supported on stage by Tanya Ellis who chats, prompts and paints, and by musician Mark Atkins who performs an exceptional didgeridoo piece, "Hitchhiker', which is a feast of uncanny sound effects.

This show has the same casual warmth as Horizons as it wanders through Watson's opinions and memories. She makes gentle political statements about women, aboriginals and power that only occasionally become didactic. Watson is hilarious and immediately creates an intimate relationship with the audience .her style is that of a stand-up comic and her gags are smart and funny.

The program of two shows is too long but it is a stimulating and colourful evening.


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