When: 13 - 23 March 2019
Where: The Stables, Meat Market
Choreographed and performed by: Henrietta Baird, Ngioka Bunda-Heath, Mariaa Randall, and Carly Sheppard
Lighting by: Siobhan Geaney
Sound by: Airileke and Deline Briscoe
AV by: Jody Haines
|Photo by Bryony Jackson
The journey begins with Randall's solo composition called 'Painting The Dance'. With paint dripping down her naked torso she dances her tale. Writhing against the back wall, the paint smears and merges with older paint smears speaking to the cave paintings which have shown us the history of the Indigenous Australians. Randall brings it into the here and now though as she steps forward and smears the paint across her own body to create the shapes and signs she wants us to see. In doing this she reclaims agency over her image and her space.
Invited to begin our travelling, we move into a second space with a small square rostra, a beach painting, and a photograph projected on the wall. In this darker and more intimate space Bunda-Heath reminds of us of a pain which has never (can never?) be healed as we hear another sorry tale of the Stolen Generation in 'Blood Quantum'. Bunda-Heath tells her story, one of a family, of a mother and three children who live outside of town. As she speaks though, she rhythmically repeats an etude of proposed violence which ends with a slap on the floor which becomes more oppressive as time wears on. The children are told to sit still and then 'the importance of the town' drives into their front yard...
We travel on, past an oil painting of a beach with three sets of footprints into a darkness littered with black draped forms hanging from the ceiling. Are they dead bodies? Are they wraiths? In 'Blak Ones' Sheppard never shows us faces, never utters a word. The four women dance to an ominous yet intriguing sound track made up of an intense rythm of voices uttering the word/breath "ha". Draped in black with their heads veiled, the four women dance a song of mourning, a song of anger, a song of action.
Finally we are invited to join the women on a camping trip. We sit in tents around the stage and are included in the yarning circle of the camp site in Baird's 'Stories'. One by one each of the women tell a campfire story. Some are silly, some are funny, all of them are gifted to us before they move into a more esoteric form. All of it is generous and inclusive.
A couple of days ago I reviewed The Perception Experiment and I talked about how they created art on the floor with salt. In Same But Different the four women engage in a similar activity, this time using brightly coloured powders which they ceremoniously pile across the stage before exploding the piles into puffs and then smears to create a melange. I was reminded of the Tibetan mandala ceremonies...
The greatest sense I came away with from Same But Different was an awareness that the past is present, and the present is shaped and informed by the past. The two are one and this is why we can't relegate the past as behind us, and why wounds don't heal easily. The dead live with us and through us and we have to speak with them when we speak with the living.
I also loved the great honoring with which this group made an acknowledgement of country both before and after the show. I know people have been exploring how to do this and if you come and see this show you will understand why it should be done as well as how it can be done in a way which is real, and powerful, and meaningful.
There was more to Same But Different than I have spoken of here. Linking across all the works is some wonderful videography by Haines. The image which sat with me most resonantly was the repetition of two hands reaching towards each other. It really set the tone of offering and openness which permeated across the four steps of our journey.
For me Same But Different is the performance which opened an important door of understanding what it is to be Australian and to take a step closer to being able to hopefully engage more fully with our First Nation People. I don't think I really understood the past as present before and I thank these women for the gift they have given me.
Same But Different is offering this gift to us all so please make sure you take up there offer. Hopefully you will see some of what I saw and the world will never look the same again.