Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance Theatre Stephen Page talks about the upcoming Brisbane season of "Bloodland"
Editor's Note: In expectation for the Opening Night of the Brisbane season of "Bloodland": A new work from Bangarra Dance Theatre in association with Queensland Theatre Company I caught up with Artistic Director Stephen Page to chat about what we can expect from this show and what it will represent to audiences in Brisbane. Perhaps, like many people, my exposure to Indigenous Australian theatre has been limited and so I was very keen to get some education and hear some thoughts from the designer of this new work. – Brent
- This is the first time "Bloodland" has come to Brisbane, correct? It has had a Sydney season?
This is a new show, it's the first time it's come to Brisbane. This is a new commission that had a run in Sydney last year after being developed with regional communities in Arnhem land. It's a new way of storytelling through dance, through community ritual.
- This kind of work is really starting to get some impetus in Australia now, we're seeing more and more work like it. What do you think is driving the interest?
I think there has always been an interest in this kind of storytelling, particularly at looking at stories from a different perspective. Since the 70s there has been a lot of interest in Black Theatre and Black stories and at looking at ways of telling stories from different points of view. Also there's a lot of interest right now in indigenous issues and telling them from a point of perspective that is different than what you get in the media right now. In this show we've worked with regional communities in Arnhem land that are looking to preserve their traditional heritage, their living languages and that are confronted by these issues.
- Do you see part of the work you do as education?
There is a curiosity out there for Black stories and we're always looking at educating ourselves, we're always learning things. I think the important thing is that we try and let these stories and these people speak for themselves. We're all about bringing these stories to a wider audience but also encouraging these stories to be told inside the communities themselves. The stories are told in living languages, in traditional languages. We're trying not just to teach the audience, or the theatre, but we're trying to stimulate the telling of these stories in the communities.
- This story is told quite differently to how many people only used to Western stories are used to. What are some of the challenges you've faced in telling a story in a way that is different or unknown to a lot of people?
This story is told in living language from the Arnhem and Kimberley regions, it is also told through dance and through ceremony. There are no surtitles or anything like that and though there are words and parts in English, we feel that the audience will understand the feeling of the piece. It is very powerful language and it is a powerful and emotional way of storytelling that we feel transcends language, we think it will communicate very strongly. At all times we have to be faithful to the communities from which these stories come from, we're trying to communicate what life is like for these people who are really facing some of these issues. The audience is really mostly a spectator in the process of our trying to facilitate this communities ability to talk to and about itself, it's less about the theatricality, we have to be faithful to the people who this is about. It's about communicating a lived essence, a lived experience. We're trying to go less for performance and more for conversation, more for dialogue.
- Recently we have seen, perhaps in the case of the protests at Parliment House on Australia Day, a renewed interest in Indigenous issues and how they are presented, is your work about providing another angle of this story?
As I said earlier, this work is developed in collaboration with regional communities living in traditional cultures in remote and regional Australia and for them these issues are very real and part of a day to day reality, not just the latest conversation. The media provides great theatre, like when Julia Gillard lost her shoe and it was shown over and over again, that is great theatre, we have to react and to work with that in our minds.
- What are your expectations for the Brisbane season?
We have a long history in Brisbane. I am from Brisbane originally, that's where my home is, that's where all my family are, both my Mum and Dad's traditional lands are in the region. We always get a big turnout of the local indigenous audience who are very supportive and really like to see our work. We're expecting the same, we always do very well in Brisbane.
"Bloodland" is showing in the Playhouse at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre from the 14th-18th of March in a strictly limited Brisbane season.
Tickets and more information available from http://www.qpac.com.au/event/Bloodland_12.aspx?showTab=Overview