The Season hits Sydney
Our ambitious commission, Nathan Maynard’s The Season, had its first performances at Sydney Festival a couple of weeks ago. It was a fantastic opening for a great show. It’s an hilarious tale of families and generational change and the audience was wonderfully responsive. The reviews from Sydney have been terrific and a credit to a wonderful script, great cast, excellent direction and the tireless efforts of Tasmania Performs to bring this Tasmanian tale to the stage. It’s been a long journey. I first met Nathan Maynard, the playwright, in 2014, when he told me the captivating tale about his family’s mutton-birding adventures and traditions on Dog Island, just off Flinders. Mutton-birding is a cultural practice going back millennia which is still followed today. Nathan himself is a passionate birder and his passion fills the stage. I am really looking forward to its Hobart performances 16-19 March and to Tasmanian audiences enjoying the fruits of our local artists and creativity.
Of course a visit to Sydney Festival was a great opportunity to see other work from around the Australia, and from other countries. The Indonesian dance company Ekosdance’s program, Cry Jailolo and Balabala, was fantastic. I also saw Dance North’s (Townsville) Spectra, Cheek by Jowl’s (UK and Russia) production of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, La Boite’s (Brisbane) production Prize Fighter, a new opera Biographica by Sydney Chamber Opera and Circa’s (Brisbane) exciting new show Humans. Circa have performed in two Ten Days on the Island Festivals. In 2013 with Twenty Circus Acts in Twenty Minutes and in 2015 in the Spiegeltent program and in Burnie, with Beyond. They are a wonderfully skilled company. Gasping at what they do with their bodies is impossible to suppress.
The standout of the other festival program I was able to see was Imagined Touch, in which two deaf-blind artists, Heather Lawson and Michelle Stevens, took the audience into a world without sight or sound. It was absolutely moving and I came out of the performance floating on air with the languid notes of Debussy’s piano music floating through my head. It was played from memory by one of the artists after we had taken off our sound-deadening headphones. Imagine that. Imagine a deaf-blind person playing Debussy in a beautifully intimate and personal performance. Her own experience of the sounds that she is creating are impossible to imagine. As a person with full sight and hearing, to enter the world of someone without those senses, could be very confronting. But the environment of exploration which the two women create makes it anything but, and I found my other senses on edge as I sought to locate myself in a world that is both completely different from, and exactly the same as, the one that I know.
It’s less than three months until our festival opens and our artists are starting to prepare in anticipation of providing us with the great performances and experiences which are the hallmark of Ten Days on the Island. It’s all about creativity, and the way that artists can sometime make us see the world, and ourselves, just a little differently. At the same time there is laughter, tears, recognition, delight and transformation. A heady mix indeed but it only comes around every two years so I hope that you will make the most of it and explore the passions of creative artists who have filled the program with their stories and ideas.
Photo by Prudence Upton