Friday, January 4, 2013

Beautiful One Day

Photo by Heidrun Lohr
Belvoir, ILBIJERRI Theatre Company and version 1.0 present BEAUTIFUL ONE DAY, in the Upstairs Theatre at Belvoir St Theatre.

BEAUTIFUL ONE DAY is a collaboration with Belvoir (Devisor,Eamon Flack), ILBIJERRI Theatre Company (Devisor/Performer, Rachael Mazza) and version 1.0 (Devisor, David Williams). It is a verbatim exercise researching, organising and presenting interview and found materials concerning the now notorious, November 2004 death-in-custody incident of an aboriginal man on Palm Island and the long aftermath of a pursuit of justice. It is also "a show about the irrepressible life and times of Palm island."

This show began well. Visual images on four screens gave us some reference to the real Palm Island (Sean Bacon): palms, sea and sand (later the images take us back in time, through film and photographs). A moveable platform shaped like an island was wheeled centre stage and Magdalena Blackley (Devisor/Performer/Cultural Consultant) sat centre platform and with the aid of a micro-phoned voice began an introduction to the background of the incident.

There is great confidence and comfort radiating from the presence of Ms Blackley - an awesome authenticity of authority, innate wisdom, knowledge. Rachel Mazza, incandescent with vital attractiveness, energy and intelligence, introduces her role as devisor -, further authenticity. Quietly, almost modestly, Harry Ruben, although not a confident performer, but, a pleasant presence, inculcates us with an energy and attention grabbing focus adding another depth to the authentic voice of this story. The self deprecation, modesty, shyness of the threesome, is impressive. Later, Kylie Doomadgee, also from the island, makes an explosive and powerful and ironic entrance, and where the other performers have restraint, this young woman has expressive passion and a keen agenda about telling this story, a dreadful (dread filled) need to tell this story, in the theatre. There is from this group of people, who proceed to give an historic context for the major event of the play, a freshness and simple feeling of open honesty. Full of good will it seems, but masking an anger and frustration of decades of injustice.

Two regular members of version 1.0, Paul Dwyer and Jane Phegan, make up the numbers as devisors and performers, facilitating the representation of the white characters throughout the exploration of the history. It is with these two actors that the piece begins to lose its authenticity and its charm. The very familiar version 1.0 form of production came once again, boringly into play. It became a routine of structure/plot and role playing technique, which has come to characterize the work of version 1.0, and, for me stultifies the experience. It seems to me that for the version 1.0 company, that habit is everything. I no longer find the means with which they shape their work and present it, as at all interesting. (See, THE TABLE OF KNOWLEDGE). A friend who had never seen this company at work, had a "good time". Perhaps, familiarity with the company had bred my boredom.

Mr Bacon's visual material is full of repeated image and loses its potency with each repeat. It begins to pall in its effectiveness. This is true of the textual re-iterations of the play script. The production development stands still for much of the evening. Material is not able for legal reasons to be heard and so...??... !!!... What is the point? Visual interviews with other Palm Islanders are amateurish in their content gathering, charming, but uninformatively listless in galvanising the theatre as a political tool.

BEAUTIFUL ONE DAY, began well. Worthy and important material, but dull, in this production form as theatre, I am afraid. Distressingly so.

Eamon Flack and David Williams were two of the other devisors to this unhappy night in the theatre.

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