Posts Tagged ‘cross-cultural collaboration


대홍수 Deluge




대홍수 Deluge

Brisbane Festival, Motherboard Productions & Brisbane Powerhouse

Brisbane Powerhouse

September 18 – 20 2014


Reviewed by Xanthe Coward 


Deluge. Anything that overwhelms.


We are all naked in the face of grief…

Director, Jeremy Neideck



Deluge Preview from Motherboard Productions on Vimeo.


During Brisbane Writers Festival, I was delighted to speak with Morris Gleitzman, mostly about tea. Not only a renowned author, he’s what you might call a tea connoisseur, quietly, humbly possessing vast knowledge on many varieties of tea, and the many ways in which humans have enjoyed tea for centuries. I’ve come to realise that tea expertise impresses me immensely and if you can talk about it, and make it well, you are a prince (or princess) amongst men (or women).


In our household tea is very special, even sacred (I quit coffee a couple of years ago); the drinking of tea is not to be rushed or denied. Our tea “ceremonies” enable a level of conversation and connection that we just don’t discover over any other shared beverage. Tea is the first and final thing we share each day, and it links events, friends and colleagues in between.
Considering my appreciation for a good cuppa, I delighted in the notion of a tea ceremony to open the show. During this time the house lights stay up and we watch as members of the company take tea orders from the audience. Black? Green? Milk? Sugar? They are relaxed, in no rush at all, waiting patiently to take turns to pour the water to make the tea from a towering urn centre stage, which sits in pride of place on a kitchen hutch. It’s not what Raymond Mao would do but it sets the scene and serves to focus our attention on the performers’ focus, kindness and control of the elements. A deceptively simple soundscape (Sound Designer Dane Alexander) and the alternating pace of the performers’ movements remind me of the imagery and viewing experience of Baraka. Although the slow-mo sets the pace of the show and establishes its ritual, which continues in the following moving water vessels sequence, what starts out as a quirky, gentle, delightful opening sequence feels, after 20 minutes, too long, even for me.


Other segments of the show feel indulgent for little gain or effect. Without a narrative – everything is symbolic – at times we’re left floundering (though no less fascinated or impressed by the movement itself), like the flotsam and jetsam along the shoreline. I try to go with the flow, to take in as much as possible on an experiential level. Despite its strengths Deluge is presented in an extended form that some may be reluctant to sit through again. This is unfortunate (or is it?) for the development of the piece, which might just need a new pair of eyes on it. Ultimately, despite some moments that are forever etched in my memory, this version of the show is one that is less mesmerising than it should be.




The production’s strength lies in its design and ritualistic choreographic elements. The action happens in and around a semi-circle of pylons, rising up out of swirling mist like some structure’s ruined foundations at the edge of Brisbane River. Having waded through waist-deep, stinking black mud to get to Drift in the aftermath of the 2011 floods, and knowing there was a similar clean up required at Brisbane Powerhouse (and everywhere else), this picture alone elicits strong feelings. It’s the bold work of Sarah Winter, the head and heart behind A Dinner With Gravity, a rare production of pure magic, which has never left me. Here too, Winter creates a dramatic, quite magical scene out of very little. A fantastic final segment, the climax of the piece, utilises the majesty of the simple set, immense lengths of white fabric (and, are they plastic bags?), and the power of Neideck’s physical and vocal performance especially, to striking effect. Before that though, an extended trance sequence builds and builds, the performers shivering, trembling, and eventually leaping up and down on the spot, Maasai Warrior style, possessed by some dark spirit or inherent longing. They suddenly stop, and one by one disappear, drowned, beneath a shimmering green light, a body of laser brilliance that engulfs each figure. The audience gasps, collectively; the movement and music and flood of emotion has quietened all at once. This moment is why we gather together to experience live theatre. (It represents the way we come together after a natural disaster, in one breath, the same realisation, all at once). The award-winning lighting, surely, by David Walters, the stuff of illegal substance enhanced dreams, is easily his best work to date.


Another moment brings us Whirling Dervish sema bliss. Or is it grief even still? It’s mostly grief explored in this production – sorrow, despair and some hope. The sort of hope we hope a hot cuppa will bring.


Both female and male performers wear simple yet sumptuous layered, gathered skirts, which swirl and billow around the dancers just like Seven Angels Jasmin Lychee blossoms dance around our big glass teapot. Below a leather waistband cum waspie and above bare feet, the fabric swishes and swings around each performer beautifully, conjuring images of western women working new, harsh land and doing their washing in shallow creeks and rivers, in their entirely unsuitable, beautiful European garb (Costume Designers Kiara Bulley & Bianca Bulley. Originating Costume Design Noni Harrison). Most of the movement achieved draws on Korean traditional dance, most of the vocal work taken from Korean opera, leading us from the beauty and wonder of daydreams by a gentle stream, to the devastation of a stormy, horror story nightmare that is any deluge, or deluge of emotion.


Han is a word that is widely held to be untranslatable…it is sometimes described as a dark shadow, or a deep-set knot of sorrow that passes between generations and oscillates in that place between despair and hope. Han is presented as the voice of the pansori singer, and in the body of the traditional dancer. It is precipitated and released in endless cycles that require time for meditation and contemplation as well as cathartic outpourings of emotion.


Some would say this brand of art is self-indulgent, but I would say maybe the artists are still in denial about what the audience wants. Or needs. There’s a fine line between sharing ritual and respect for cultural traditions, and selling us a style and a story so that we desire more of it. Neideck has little intention, as far as I can tell, of making anything more commercial, but perhaps it’s time to consider entertainment value. It might not take much – it’s already a beautiful work of art. But for whom is the art being made? Why? Why in this country? Neideck is not only a master of the art form, but also, of knowledge and skill sharing, and nurturing the relationships between artists in Australia and Korea. There must be ways to gently bring this work, and work like it to a wider audience; to help bring all of the challenging cross-cultural collaborative work to an even bigger, newer audience, and not just continue to attract the connoisseurs.


Deluge has come a long way since its original work-in-progress showing in 2011 (Red Moon Rising & FreeRange Metro Arts), and it probably has something of an eternal life, or more accurately, multiple lives, should Neideck feel the need to stay so close to its themes. It should be cherished, like the oldest Puerh, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t change and benefit from new infusions to be enjoyed by all. I think the beauty and strange power of Deluge in any of its forms is enough to stay with even the most impatient theatregoers, so let’s hope it finds its way across the sea, continues to evolve, and comes back to us on the tide someday.


In 2014 Deluge features Hoyoung Tak, Younghee Park, Youngho Kwon, Katrina Cornwell, Sammie Williams, Amy Wollstein & Jeremy Neideck.


In 2011 Deluge featured Tak Hoyoung, Mark Hill, Younghee Park, Mary Eggleston, Kat Henry, Ellen Rijs, Jung Minji & Amy Wollstein.


Forest – Deluge (2011) from Red Moon Rising on Vimeo.


The Dam(n) Project

The Dam(n) Project


Queensland Conservatorium Ian Hanger Recital Hall

Thursday 16th May 2013

Encounters: India 


ENCOUNTER (noun), a meeting, exchange, a brush or rendezvous, confrontation

For seven days in May 2013, from early morning until midnight, the South Bank precinct will be transformed into a bustling parade of contemporary India. At the Nepalese Pavilion, a lone sitar player greets the dawn; an Indian Bazaar evokes the colours and fragrances of a Delhi market on the Forecourt; throughout the parklands and streets, bursts of Bollywood recharge the mind’s battery; the Queensland Conservatorium’s many spaces echo to myriad musical styles from more than 50 concerts and masterclasses.

The Dam(n) Project

The DAM(N) Project is a large-scale interdisciplinary arts project that connects Australian and Indian communities around a common concern: water security. It presents the lives of remote communities in the Narmada Valley of North India, displaced by large-scale dam development securing hydropower for Indian cities. The construction of large dams on the River Narmada in India and its impact on millions of people living in the river valley has become one of the most important social issues in contemporary India.


The project was conceived by Jehan Kanga and developed in collaboration with Leah Barclay and Shakthi Sivanathan, all from Australia. Dancers Meghna Nambiar and Sylvester Mardi from Attakalari in India have joined this group.



Is this India’s greatest planned environmental disaster?


The controversy over large dams on the River Narmada has come to symbolise the struggle for a just and equitable society in India. The story is long and complicated and will take a long time to tell. In brief, the Government’s plan is to build 30 large, 135 medium and 3000 small dams to harness the waters of the Narmada and its tributaries. The proponents of the dam claim that this plan would provide large amounts of water and electricity, which are desperately required for the purposes of development.


The Dam(n) Project spans two continents and cultures to deliver a powerful message about the clash between a government and its people. Not all its people, just The Untouchables, the lowest of the low; the millions who live in the Narmada Valley region in North India. The Narmada River is India’s fifth largest (and largest west flowing) river, known as the “Life Line” of Madhya Pradesh.


On full development, the Narmada has a potential of irrigating over 6 million ha (15 million acres) of land along with a capacity to generate about 3,000 Mega Watt of hydroelectric power.


When I checked out the Narmada Valley Development Authority (NVDA) website, I tried to determine what they intend to do in order to achieve the following objectives, which are listed on their page:


  • to acquire and manage land in the Narmada Valley for the purpose of carrying out engineering works, to provide for human resettlements and the needs for irrigation, flood control and navigation;
  • to shoulder responsibility of human resettlement and rehabilitation in respect of projects in the Narmada Valley, to establish towns and villages and to take all necessary measures to ensure planned settlement and rehabilitation;
  • to advise for the proper conservation and development of forests, wildlife and fisheries in the Narmada Valley.


But with regard to Rehabilitation & Resettlement…


The page cannot be found 


The Dam(n) ProjectThe Dam(n) Project views a twenty-five year struggle through the eyes of outsiders, in loose doco style. We see the land, the immense body of water, and the faces of displaced people, and we gradually see the enormity of the problem. But everything is relative, isn’t it? There are more people who remain unaffected than there are those affected. Think of the Mary Valley, and so many other regions around the world. But people are becoming educated, aware of their rights, able to question the actions taken by those in power and willing to discuss possible solutions.


Depending on your perspective, for better or worse, this is progress; it’s an awakening and a growing awareness of human and democratic rights that have been denied an entire section of the population.


This year, it will be 25 years since the Narmada Bachao Andolan started questioning, organising and mobilising resistance against destruction of life and livelihood in the Narmada river valley.


Sam walked away angry. And I mean, ANGRY. He is usually angered by shows, or elements of shows, of questionable quality. This time, the one who doesn’t necessarily have the patience or the interest to sit in front of a foreign film, walked away from The Dam(n) Project without wanting to “walk away” at all! When I quizzed him on what he intended to DO about it, he wasn’t sure. SOMETHING. Okay. Are we going to India with these guys next time, to continue with a component of the project that will help the people fight their corrupt government and private corporations? MAYBE. Okaaay…


We actually might. But in the meantime, we will help to raise awareness, which I think is an undervalued part of the process of major change.


The Dam(n) Project

I wasn’t angry after seeing this film, but I was deeply moved. And glad that my daughter had also seen it. She thought a lot of it was “spooky” and “scary” sounding. (And when we talked with Poppy about it, of course she totally got why it sounded scary and why there were trees in the middle of the lake. She said she would be happy to go there to help but how? What would she need to do? Get her fairies to help her get the river flowing again? I told her I’m not sure that’s possible, even with the help of her fairies, but we will find out).


Leah’s original soundscape, created in collaboration with the children and adults of 20 displaced groups, is indeed “spooky” and “scary” sometimes, in turns jarring and dreamlike – there are entire sections of the film that are like stepping into somebody else’s dream and there are times when that dream borders on becoming a nightmare – the sounds of voices, of feet stepping across gravel, of water dripping, flowing, cascading… Leah stretches, distorts, layers and alters sound(s) so that quite often we’re immersed in another world entirely, and if the images were not so captivating, I could easily close my eyes and just listen…


The Dam(n) Project

But because we are visual beings, the images are a vital part of the experience. Footage of children singing, smiling and clapping together is slowed and blurred while their voices carry on at speed. Two figures – a male and a female, together and apart – dancing on a boat, on gravel, on the concrete wall of the dam, moving fluidly and presenting, in all its simplicity, the past, present and future of the place.  A female dancer breathing, turning, rising and exploring postures of the heart chakra and the sacred chakra, and the changed space around her, on the concrete surface above the dam. A landowner explaining the dilemma the dam has caused for generations of his family and neighbours. We watch him, animated and unrelenting, in triplicate across the screen, a projection screen set high, halved and shaped to look, appropriately, almost like a speech bubble. This little film has a lot to say.


These are real stories, rarely told, and it’s because of the passion, dedication, and creative drive of artists and humanitarians like Leah Barclay, Jehan Kanga and Shakthi Sivanathan that they reach us.


The next opportunity to get a glimpse of the latest stage of The Dam(n) Project – and you should – comes with the Balance-Unbalance International Conference and Floating Land at the end of the month.