|Return To Escape From Woomera - photo by Teresa Tan|
Art collides with technology and borders
In a new partnership with Melbourne Knowledge Week, Arts House will introduce fresh dangers that look at the dizzying maze of digital extremism and present the notorious video game that puts players in the shoes of a refugee escaping detention. The internationally acclaimed one man show, The Believers Are But Brothers, created by iconoclastic UK theatremaker Javaad Alipoor, will lead audiences deep into an electronic labyrinth of terrorists, neofascists, and fantasists.
From young Muslims who run ISIS-supporting social media accounts to young men active with the online alt-right, Alipoor found himself immersed in an environment of online and real world extremism. The Believers Are But Brothers reframes the rise of violent extremism as an international crisis of masculinity fired in the crucible of toxic underground networks online.
Sixteen years ago, the video game 'Escape from Woomera' created a media uproar when people got wind of its subject matter. It depicted a place where refugees are locked up in island prison camps and the mythology is maintained by distance, bureaucracy, and silence.
Created by Sydney collective Applespiel, Return to Escape from Woomera is a participatory game – it’s a turbo-charged and retro-fitted evening of live gaming, performance, discussion and debate.
Each night the artists in Return to Escape from Woomera conjure a live commentary to accompany the gameplay alongside thinkers, human rights advocates, refugees, and the game’s original makers, exploring the ongoing significance of this singular cultural intervention. Arts House Artistic Director, Emily Sexton, sees The Believers Are But Brothers and Return to Escape from Woomera as leading examples of artists creating politically urgent works that respond to rapid technological change.
Return to Escape from Woomera – Applespiel
16 years ago a group of Australians rocked the political landscape with 'Escape from Woomera', a video game putting players in the shoes of a refugee escaping detention. Now the sprawling creative collective Applespiel invite you to make your own bid for freedom as part of a turbo-charged and retro-fitted evening of live gaming, performance, discussion, and debate.
Each night the artists conjure a live commentary to accompany the gameplay alongside human rights advocates, refugees, and the game’s original makers, exploring the ongoing significance of this singular cultural intervention. Long before ‘serious games’ became normal, 'Escape from Woomera' had already cemented itself in the mythology of Australian art activism.
It did so by tearing the heart out of another mythology – that of Australia as the lucky country, the land of mateship built by immigrants and welcoming to all. The result was a wildly controversial video game that incited a media uproar when people got wind of its subject matter.
The country it depicted was a place where refugees are locked up in island prison camps, and the mythology is maintained by distance, bureaucracy and silence. What’s changed?
Applespiel are a collective of eights artists who collaborate as performers, musicians, technicians, and devisers. None of its members have any lived refugee experiences but know that as Australians they’re complicit in the treatment of asylum seekers.
Detention has been a political point-scorer since Applespiel were infants and a defining way in which this nation engages with the rest of the world. Active since 2009, Applespiel evolved out of a shared interest in contemporary performance and a collaborative creative process.
In developing new work Applespiel find themselves increasingly involved in testing dynamic audience relationships, engaging in personal stories, and dissecting structures of mythology in society. Applespiel are Simon Binns, Nicole Kennedy, Emma McManus, Mark Rogers, Troy Reid, Joseph Parro, Nathan Harrison and Rachel Roberts
Applespiel (Nathan Harrison, Emma McManus, Rachel Roberts, Simon Vaughan)
Dramaturge Paschal Daantos Berry
Technical director Solomon Thomas
Lighting and set designer Emma Lockhart-Wilson
Times 6.30pm Tue – Sat
Location Meat Market
Duration 150 minutes (audiences are able to leave and re-enter the space at any time)
The Believers Are But Brothers – Javaad Alipoor and Kirsty Housley
A recipe for the end of the world: take men, politics and the internet. Stir gently.
Extremism looks different in the social media age. For the alt-right and ISIS image is everything and the videos that seek to provoke impressionable viewers to violent acts owe their visual aesthetic more to Game of Thrones and Call of Duty than anything else.
Susceptible young minds are lured into harmless forums by dark humour and dank memes but quickly find themselves in a dangerous moral freefall. In 2016 UK writer and director Javaad Alipoor began a journey into this dizzying maze of digital extremism.
From young Muslims who run ISIS-supporting social media accounts to young men active with the online alt-right, he soon found himself immersed in an environment of online and real world extremism. Equal parts intrigued and horrified, he delved even deeper into an electronic labyrinth of terrorists, neo-fascists, and fantasists.
This show takes you into that world, shining a light on places that are only ever just two clicks away from the sites you visit every day. From the postcolonial nation states of the Middle East to the EU, Brexit, and post-truth America the old orders are collapsing.
Through it all a generation of young men find themselves burning with resentment. This work tells their story, reframing the rise of violent extremism as an international crisis of masculinity fired in the crucible of toxic underground networks online.
Through the might of an impressive arsenal of digital tools this one man show conjures the smoke and mirrors reality of online extremism and anonymity, and comes to Arts House on a cavalcade of praise including a 2017 Scotsman Fringe First Award, the Columbia University Digital Storytelling prize, and nominations for Total Theatre Award and Stage Awards.
Alipoor is an artist, director, writer and activist who regularly makes theatre with and for communities that don’t usually engage in the arts. He is a Scotsman Fringe First and Columbia University Digital Storytelling Award winner. In 2017 his play, The Believers Are But Brothers, opened at Transform Festival in Leeds before transferring for a sold-out, critically acclaimed run at Summerhall at the Edinburgh Fringe where it received a Scotsman Fringe First Award. The production then ran at London's Bush Theatre before its world tour.
Kirsty Housley is a theatre director, dramaturg, and writer. She has been the recipient of the Oxford Samuel Beckett Theatre Trust award and the Title Pending award for innovation at Northern Stage. She is an Associate of Complicite and Dramaturg for The National Theatre's 'Let's' Play program.
Writer, Co-Director and Performer Javaad Alipoor
Co-director Kirsty Housley
Stage and Lighting Designer Ben Pacey
Dramaturge Chris Thorpe
Video Designer Jack Offord
Projection Designers Limbic Cinema
Sound Designer Simon McCorry
Times 7.30pm Wed – Sat
Location Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall
Duration 70 minutes
Melbourne Knowledge Week – Arts House program
Return to Escape from Woomera – Applespiel
21 – 25 May
The Believers Are But Brothers – Javaad Alipoor & Kirsty Housley
22 – 25 May
North Melbourne Town Hall
Tickets $25 – $35 (plus transaction fee)
Bookings artshouse.com.au or (03) 9322 3720