Metro Arts & Sally Lewry
Sue Benner Theatre
March 4 – 22 2014
Reviewed by Meredith Walker
A call to the wild, Cimarrón speaks to an aspect of humanity which is all but lost. This work of contemporary performance aims to evoke an instinctual and primal element – to reveal the savage beast that lingers behind our social façades. It challenges and interrogates conservative Australia and urban lifestyle. It is a call to reclaim our place within the wild and awaken our inner beast, to reconnect.
“This is a difficult work” is the first sentence in the program synopsis for Cimarròn, currently playing at Metro Arts. And this is indeed true in terms of the show’s untraditional exploration of narrative and consideration of the power of power, whether it be enforced, surrendered or assumed.
Cimarron is a work enveloped in enigma, from the blurred, shadowy images that appear as part of its promotion to the stage that stays suspensefully shrouded in black upon audience entry into the Sue Benner Theatre. From within the darkness, the show begins with primeval sounds and visceral imagery. There is no speech, rather just fierce noises, as if from the depths of the ocean. In fact it is a long time before words are spoken and then they are only short, sharp commands, few and far between. Rather, this is a work of movement, imagery and sound.
The opening image is of a hooded, furred figure (performance creator, Melbourne’s Sally Lewry) scratching and scampering through the dirt (yes the stage is covered in dirt). We observe voyeuristically as she is attacked and captured by an imperial hunter (Tamara Natt) who domesticates her through reward for good behaviour.
Although there are some shabby lighting transitions, visually this is a stimulating and intriguing show and the Sue Benner Theatre, with its dark, industrial brick backdrop, is well suited to exploration its base themes. And it through the simplicity of its powerful imagery, the consideration of colonisation is clear. The show entices audiences to look at themselves from a new perspective as it questions the legitimacy of the ignorance of the ‘innocent’ bystander. These are certainly heavy themes; however, they are tempered, by moments of levity such as a humorous interpretive rubber gloved dance.
The physicality of the performances is absorbing, with highlights including Lewry’s equine capers (Cimarròn is the name of the untameable horse in the 2002 children’s film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarròn). However, scarcity is this work’s primary feature, with the absence of speech enabling the audience to decide in their own minds what is happening. As emphasis of this, in the final moments of its sombre conclusion, the stage lights are shone on the audience, highlighting their essential role in the meaning making of the project.
This is what makes Cimarròn so intriguing; it is open to interpretation.
And as such, represents both all things interesting about independent theatre practice and all things exciting about the ‘In Presentation’ platform for new works, incubated by Metro Arts. It is a show with intent that deserves to be nurtured by audience for the questions it asks more than the answers it provides as it aims to awaken our inner beasts (it takes its name of the Spanish word for ‘that which can’t be tamed’). However, it is not a show for everybody, and particularly not those who revel in the nuances of language explored in the dialogue interactions of traditional theatre.
Cimarròn is, as it promises, a difficult work of contemporary theatre that is meant to unsettle and unnerve through its untamed unorthodoxy.