Cypress Trilogy

Wow. Let me just say that there is quite simply no one in the world like Ms Leah Barclay. Call me biased if you will (Leah was commissioned to write an original soundscape and score for La Ronde, which I think was incredible for several reasons, not least of all because she wrote it in India and sent it to us in MP3 files after discussing once over coffee in Noosa, the multi-faceted design concept for the show before she left the country ( I didn’t meet Leah in person until she flew home for our tech run). You can read more about Leah’s phenomenal creative achievements here

It should have come as no surprise then, that this evening’s installation at Noosa Regional Gallery would be something intriguing, involving multiple art forms to create something spiritual, peaceful and thought-provoking about our local natural environment…and our place in it. 

Let’s be honest here; I didn’t realise exactly what I was attending…nor did I appreciate exactly what it was that I was taking four children under the age of ten to see and experience! 

This is what I should have read before heading up to Tewantin on a cold Saturday (Eurovision) night with four kids (three of whom are probably more at home on the beach or on the footy field than in a theatre or in an art gallery) and a husband just back from a week’s work in Sydney, to experience Cypress Trilogy and Sonic Babylon

Cypress Trilogy 

An evocative site specific performance installation by award winning Australian artist Leah Barclay. The performance will provide a rich tapestry of local history and feature a selection of internationally acclaimed performers including pioneering Korean taegum artist Hyelim Kim and virtuoso guitarist Anthony Garcia. 

TreeLine Program available at http://www.treeline.org.au 

TreeLine is a Sunshine Coast Council arts initiative. Supported by the Queensland and Australian Governments. 

Now what is not mentioned here, though it was well explained in the program, is the amazing work/play of Lyndon Davis and the Gubbi Gubbi Dancers, whom I have been privileged to see perform many times over the last ten years, at schools and at special events across the Sunshine Coast. Lyndon and his dancers opened the evening’s performance with a special performance of their own, outside, against a backdrop of cotton trees and the Noosa River, under an Aurora Borealis of changing lights (actually, there was substantially more pink in the local mix). 

Their stories were their own, those of the traditional land owners and how they lived and what they saw and the lessons they have always learned from their environment (simply from tuning in to their environment and reading the signs). We learned a lot from them in 20 minutes, through song and dance, accompanied by didgeridoo, about the local flora and fauna.

My four-year old daughter’s favourite piece was about the men collecting oysters, opening them and tipping their heads back to enjoy them fresh, while her cousins enjoyed the bird dances: the first about the brolgas seen in our local region and the second, about the eagles, soaring high above the sea, looking for their dinner, of which there was once an abundance because the people knew (through their observation and subsequent teachings) never to kill the leader fish (the “elders”) as they were the ones teachin’ the young fellas where to spawn! 

It remains to me a mystery, why these stories (shall we say, lessons) are not taught to our own kids from the outset. Now I love our Grimm and Disney tales as much as the next girl but the fact that our own traditional oral stories, those from the people of this land, which explain beautifully how this land came about and how we should be looking after it, are sorely lacking from the curriculum and from our households baffles me. YES, I KNOW THEY ARE THERE. I’VE TAUGHT THEM TOO. But they are far from integral. Except in some of the more remote regions of this country, where the lessons and languages of our indigenous people have become a preservation-of-culture educational and community priority and thus, supported by government…or they are supported by government and thus they have become a priority? Regardless, they should, in my opinion, become part of every term’s events and lessons, and not just included as a once-a-year-visiting-dance-troupe-to-tick-the-boxes gig. JUST LIKE THE ARTS. You can try to tell me otherwise but Exhibit A: I took a NINE YEAR OLD with us tonight who had never seen a live didgeridoo performance or a traditional corroboree. As further evidence of our continued dismal recognition of the traditional land owners, I present Exhibit B: Australian Spell Check did not recognise the word “corroboree”. It did not. I just clicked “Add to dictionary”. Thank the supernatural beings who rose from the Earth (and the Queensland Folk Federation and the Jinibara people) that the wonderful The Dreaming Festival is almost upon us!!!

After we had spoken to Lyndon and the dancers, we went for dinner with our good friends, Ben and Kay (Kay was The Girl in La Ronde and Ben was everything we needed him to be backstage. That’s right. Everything) before walking back with triple swirl rainbow paddlepops for desert and to see Cypress Trilogy. 

In three movements, “Dusk, Darkness and Dawn”, we experienced Leah’s superb soundscapes, recorded in the Noosa biosphere, Anthony Garcia‘s guitar and Hyelim Kim‘s taegum, accompanied by live visuals on a multi-layered screen (James Muller’s work). In yet another rich layer, performance artists, Mary Eggleston (The Wife in La Ronde) and Jeremy Neideck, painted by the amazing body artist, Kat Farrar, moved Butoh-like through the space and amongst the audience and the evocative, leaf inspired artworks by Elizabeth Poole and other local visual artists. 

This was truly an interactive* and collaborative work of art – a rich tapestry – each artist giving generously of themselves to contribute to the overall Treeline themes and local contexts of Leah’s Cypress Trilogy. I only wish I was in on what they were doing…I felt like I was looking in; coming across them in a clearing in the bush and crouching, hiding by a Rainbow Serpent stone arrangement so I would be privy to the performance without interrupting their concentration and trance-like delight! 

*interactive. Hmmm…yes, I wish I’d known to download the app via http://www.sonicbabylon.com and become part of the installation (Sonic Babylon). Perhaps the kids would get a little more too, or something a little different again, from walking through the sound garden. I know Poppy would have loved to do that (she is of Generation i: i is for iPhone)! 

The performance inside was in fact, a little alienating and it made me consider, as performing artists and directors and teachers as audience members are wont to do, how else could it have felt more welcoming, to be there and feel a real part of it, rather than an admiring observer of fine art? It occurred to somebody, I think it was Kay, that the entire performance might have been better suited to the Cooroy amphitheatre, a sadly under utilised performance space at the edge of Lake McDonald. 

This is somebody else’s picture of it, during a rare operatic performance. I’m sure it has been used since. For example, my cousin was married there. I think she’s divorced now… 


I thought that perhaps the threat of wet weather was the reason for sending us inside after the Gubbi Gubbi dances but I was wrong and the whole thing was indeed intended to be experienced inside the gallery. This made it very easy to supervise four over-tired children, who were most intrigued by the leaf sculptures of all descriptions (one hanging arrangement not unlike the favourite GOMA String Room)! 

Hanging Leaves

N.B. “Hanging Leaves” definitely not the artist’s title 


Poppy and her daddy in The String Room @ GOMA

N.B. Poppy and her daddy’s feet in The String Room @ GOMA definitely the more apt title 

Not being a fine arts buff, and by that I mean that in terms of making a habit of attending these highfalutin’ high-end fine art evenings I don’t (I’m all good at opening nights for shows though), I enjoyed and admired the work and I was fascinated by the reactions of the kids (there were five other kids there, who all ran around outside on the cold, wet grass). What I needed was to feel much more a part of it, as I mentioned. Yes, alright, you got me; of course I would have liked to have been body painted again and performed too! But seriously, there has to be a way, or ways, just like in any other live theatrical performance, to bring the audience closer – much closer – to what you are doing as visual artists and musicians. Why should an installation be any less entertaining? Or any less theatrical? I think everybody involved believed that they were sharing a sacred part of themselves and their particular art form (I get that, I do) but I also think that those unaccustomed to theatre or art of any sort may feel it is a little self-indulgent. And maybe that sort were not there tonight. But I hope that sort feels welcome to attend and experience Cypress Trilogy and Sonic Babylon, the Sound Garden and the other Treeline projects that will continue to get off the ground across the Sunshine Coast. I dare say a lot of money has been put towards the overall event and I would love to see the non-subscribers there. 

And I would love to see the kids there, with their parents and teachers, talking about the way they feel and experience their beautiful local environment every day…and what they might do to help preserve it. 

Heartland - My Buderim Backyard

Treeline is a challenging, interdisciplinary and interactive art/science/community event that will highlight the impact of human lifestyle choices on our ability to sustain a healthy planet. Treeline incorporates visual and new media arts, theatre, dance, music, sculpture and storytelling, actively involving participants in the creative process in order to raise awareness of local and global issues through the arts and encourage environmental action. 


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