Posts Tagged ‘Leah Barclay



15
Jun
10

The Dreaming Festival

It was our first time at The Dreaming Festival. In previous years, we have been curious about what happens there but each time it has come around we have been otherwise occupied. The Dreaming is a relatively new festival and we are long-time Woodford Folk Festival supporters so this year, with no prior commitments, we were determined to go for just a day to check it out.

Now, any die-hard festival goer will tell you that one day is never enough (this one ran for 3 days and four nights). And they are right. Next year I would love to stay and do the whole thing properly. Also, was it not ironic, that we attended our nation’s largest indigenous cultural celebration on the Queen’s birthday holiday? Hmmm. The first of a few contradictions.

I didn’t look at the program, I didn’t look at ticket prices; I trusted that anything happening on sacred Woodford Folk Festival site soil (the land of the Jinibara people) would be fantastic. We dressed warmly, stopped for coffee, chai and hot chocolate and took off up the highway to the tune of the four year old’s latest version of “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” (“Lizards are a girl’s best friend” and yes, I have tried to convince her otherwise but she is stuck on lizards at the moment)!

Unlike Woodford (I refer to the folk festival), there was ample parking, very little dust and no wait time at the gate. Unlike Woodford, I didn’t know exactly what we were paying to see (usually I pour over the folk festival program for months, working out how to not miss anything…much) so the sharp intake of breath at the ticket price was swallowed quickly and replaced with a smile. Perhaps the cost to camp for the duration of the festival better reflects my value for money, especially with regard to experiencing the festival and that tricky festival programming thing they do, with one thing you love on one day and the next thing you can’t leave without seeing on the next…as the website suggests,

The Dreaming Festival 2010 programme booklet is essential for maximum enjoyment of the festival.

Yes, well. Look, sometimes I don’t mind wandering around, soaking up the atmosphere and stumbling across new and amazing acts. But lesson learned today. There were a few things that, had we planned our day around them, would have been terrific to see. What we did see was wonderful, particularly for Poppy, though typically, she was just as happy to climb the bleachers to eat her Byron Bay Organic Donut

or play in the hay at the place-where-the-chai-tent-should-have-been

(no, not the same place as during Woodford, but by the Dancestry venue, which appeared to us to be just about the centre of the world).

In the Dancestry space, we enjoyed people watching as well as the traditional dances, stories and songs from Aboriginal mobs from Mornington Island and Doomadgee (the first time they’d danced together in 32 years), from Vanuatu and from Canada’s Kehewin Native Dance Theatre.

There was something fun and carefree and bold and inviting about the Vanuatu performance

There was something colourful,

magical,

mystical,

well rehearsed, proud, generous and celebratory about the Kehewin clan’s performance.

And something very grounded, tough, strong and yet slightly insecure and a little self-indulgent about the Doomadgee and Mornington Island performances. I enjoyed them but just saying.

One little girl – four years old – was truly celebrated, as she “shook her booty” for a rather long display of booty-shaking, even in my humble opinion, which involved: “the girls put a big, loud music box in somebody’s uncle’s front yard and shake their arses…or, as we say, their booty.” Sure you do. Thanks for sharing that aspect of the culture. It was fun and cute to begin with and then it felt like a cheap trick at the end of the show. Gotta have a gimmick, right?

She even made an encore appearance at the end of Busby Marou‘s gig. The crowd went wild!

But seriously, all they need in Doomadgee and Mornington Island are a couple of artistic directors. And somebody else to find the funds to get them here. That way, the talent can spend less time fund raising and more time rehearsing. They had good material, they did. See the guy in the dress? Well, speaking of gimmicks, they had a great story, which evolved organically, about a bloke who had actually visited from far away and he had 8 wives and 12 children and…I can’t remember the actual point of the story but it seems he was a cool guy and so the young boys had learnt the story as it was told and re-told and they could all play the role and…as I said, a director may be what’s needed.

And speaking of blokes in dresses (and the need for some direction), this bloke did a whole act, singing and dancing and yarning…and I was bemused and then irritated because IT SEEMS IT IS ENOUGH FOR A BLOKE TO PUT ON A DRESS. It was an ordinary unpolished show. The fact that his ensemble appeared incomplete (stockings and sky-high heels, gentlemen, when wearing a dress, please; thanks) and that I have seen and fallen about on the floor laughing at Miranda Sings’ Single Ladies meant that I was not as impressed as some, by this brave, bold, out-there, whatever, whatever performance…

An empowering performance, okay, sure.

By singling out and celebrating indigenous cultures at yet another festival (one they can call their very own), are we doing them a disservice?

Bill Hauritz, the “folk festival fixer” and the true brains, heart and soul behind both festivals, touches briefly on this notion in a wonderful interview that I’m quite sure, it having appeared in The Hinterland Times, hardly anybody has read. Read it here.

The energy, the workshops on offer, the friendly atmosphere, the groovy market stalls and the great selection of food, from a cross-section of cultures…look, it was all awesome. It made this festival, to me, seem like a Little Woodford; just like the Woodford Folk Festival was once. And by once, I mean once it moved to the new site (that’s right, kids, once upon a time we only had to trek up the hill to Maleny and it was a quaint, tiny thing where everyone knew everyone and during which we just drank chai and jammed and celebrated peace and the trees and the special plants; and some celebrated more than others, the very special plants that could be cut up, rolled up and smoked)…

The Dreaming Festival is young, very young. It’s a baby. Clearly, we need to nurture it, support it and help it to grow. And it will grow. I hope it does so under those watchful eyes of both the creative friends and the business friends; those who have the talent and the time to build it slowly and carefully, just as they have done with the Woodford Folk Festival, so we can continue to share and celebrate our indigenous cultures by embracing (and learning from), over several generations, their extraordinary traditions and talents and stories.

There must be a very fine line between keeping the traditional ways sacred and special and up-selling just enough to make a good show great…

30
May
10

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. 

 

19
Apr
10

Remembering La Ronde

by Carly Partridge

Disclaimer: I have had writer’s block (yes, I know what they say about writer’s block) and insomnia (writer’s block and insomnia? Are you kidding me?!) and a seriously debilitating headache since Sunday (without having had a single drink after the last show – it’s quite unfair) as well as new musical theatre students to teach (with a three year old in tow) SO…I asked the multi-talented members of the cast to write something if they so desired, now that we have come to the bitter-sweet end of this incredible little La Ronde journey.

Except that it’s not the end. It’s just the end of this little bit.

The Actress and The Poet by Kaela Daffara

La Ronde, ah yes I knew it well; for me it started on the introduction night when Sam shared a few of his visions. I came along already excited about the story and left that night with a “must get a part in this or die” attitude. It was already in my blood and I thought of it constantly until the auditions and once again this was like nothing I had experienced before: a workshop audition that was being filmed. The first of many film experiences and I think the fabulous relaxed attitude of Dutchy and his very ameniable nature made him like part of this very new atmosphere of theatre and rehearsals, not to mention being accompanied by his beautiful and talented wife Evita, who made any interviews comfortable by just chatting with a friend.

Rehearsals again, very different from the norm, for me it could have been a play with 3 characters; myself the actress and my beloved and beautiful lovers Nathan the poet and Tim the judge, for these are the only people I saw for the first few weeks, apart from a crazy ‘malelike’ version of myself, maybe a little wilder…let’s call him the director . I think in my first rehearsal, Sam pulled his pants down and walked around in his underwear, and being new to his style of direction , kind of took me off-guard! But how quickly I adapted to this new world and loved every second of it. Closer to the show date, I did find out in fact that there were 7 other actors in our play! (seriously though, we had only met as a group once before we all went our own ways until couple of weeks before opening) and funnily enough when we did all get together it was like we had been like this from the beginning and it was to become a very closeknit “family” from then until the last show in Mooloolaba and I daresay forever, as we all did experience something very very special.

I loved everyone involved, all talented, fabulous human beings. Sharon, Megan, Nathan and Shane, with whom I have worked before and they are all special memories and now to have worked with Xanthe, Mary, Kay, Tim and Steven have just created more happy times for me to remember when I finally get old?!?? As if!!! Also, to work at Noosa Arts again is always a pleasure and Margaret, George, Susan, Nelson, Andrew a great time again. Margaret you’re a whiz, who thought that corset could hold my stomach in for the whole show??!!

The new ones backstage Mel whom I adore, Tom crazy Tom, the stunning Kaela and talented Wayne. Also, a special mention to gorgeous Ben, who helped out at Mooloolaba. Bizarre times on a bizarre show – I don’t think waiting to go onstage will ever be the same again! Leah Barclay whom I only met a few times, wow, what a very talented lady, with these haunting melodies that will stay with me for a long time.

Finally, Sam, thankyou for casting me in this wondrous, exciting and innovative creation. Loved it and love you.

The Judge and The Actress by Kaela Daffara