TO DANCE the wind they become the dust, Stolen is the transformative play headed to the stage in Tamworth.
Director Vicki Van Hout said the play touches on the power of family dynamics, interweaving the stories of five different children.
“When you don’t grow up with family it has long lasting ramifications,” the Wiradjuri woman said.
“I know of people that grew up in care, there’s a camaraderie built up with these kids but there’s also a hardness of the generation.
“This was something that became very commonplace, but I find it really important that Indigenous people are the authors of our own history and narrative.”
Van Hout is better known in the theatre world for her traditional Indigenous choreography, having trained at the NAISDA Dance College.
Her traditional dance background informs her storytelling, and Van Hout is distinctly physical in her interpretation of Jane Harrison’s Stolen and all the intergenerational trauma that comes with it.
Van Hout said her narrative is set in the mind of a child, giving the performance a strikingly surreal aspect.
“When we dance like a crane we become the eyes and beak, when we become the wind, we become the dust – when we dance the sun we dance the dying heat, the last rays of the heat and the sun,” she said.
“The dance doesn’t just represent entertainment, it’s a sharing of law, of custom and social practice.
“It’s the Aboriginal way of being in the world, through this iteration of the world I have embedded as much information as has been passed on to me.”
Since time immemorial, Indigenous Australians have prepared the ground – a cultural practice that maintains ceremonial links with ancestral grounds.
And, Stolen is no different.
"In a contemporary context, when we dance we prepare our ground,” Van Hout said.
“In this work there is one big tree and a lot of cleverly crafted pieces of cardboard that the actors model and remodel as their own preparation for the scene they’re about to enact.
“What I’m trying to do with these actors is recreate this idea of embodiment, a modern day corroboree or dreaming story, I treat it like a dreaming history, this is the way things have always been passed down.
“The nature of indigenous cultural practice is that it is very performative, it’s interdisciplinary there are elements of story, song and dance, I’ve created a world that’s a little bit left of centre.”
The play follows Shirley, played by Henriette Baird who’s trying to reconnect with a lost daughter, Ann [Katie Leslie] whose Aboriginal heritage was hidden by the while family she was placed with, Jimmy [Glen Thomas] searching for his mother, Ruby [Berthalia Selina Reuben] a forgotten and alienated woman and Sandy [Jack Sheppard], whose Aboriginal mother was raped by a white man.
Van Hout said the performance holds up a mirror to society without judgement.
“Through the arts we give people a softer entry into reality, we see so much violence,” she said.
“It’s a place for meditation, not to talk about data or statistics, but to meditate on the ins and outs of the human condition.
“We can strike a chord of empathy, hopefully by taking this out of the world of every day and placing it in a contemporary dreaming cannon audiences can separate it a bit more and see it from a different perspective.”
But, the work isn’t just aimed at non-Aboriginal audiences, it’s got a strong style of Indigenous theatre as a non-linear episodic narrative.
It jumps back and forth in history as a continuation of word of mouth practice, Van Hout said.
“You bring your possibilities, your hopes, your distant memories – we’re asking audiences to jump into the everywhen [sic], in that respect it’s a deceptively sophisticated play,” she said.
“This play asks you to hold all of those threads all at once.
“It takes a politician a lot to win someone over, but very clever artists to open the door and let someone experience the way Aboriginal stories are told.”
Stolen is on at the Tamworth Capitol Theatre on Thursday June 14, for tickets visit capitaltheatretamworth.com.au
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