For the Ones Who Walk Away

For the Ones Who Walk Away
Concept and Direction – Nadja Kostich. Text – Ursula K.LeGuin, Daniel Keene and the St Martins ensemble. St Martins and Melbourne Fringe. September 27 to October 1, 2017.

This work is for an active audience – one that is thoughtful and keen to find and make meaning. 

All the child participants work sublimely as a team. An extraordinary sense of interconnected community is created through the amalgam of a big group of kids with varying skill and abilities, working together as small groups with strong messages, then as a huge cooperative where there is minimal digression – a neutrality. 

Symbols such as flower petals, rocks, strips of newspaper and feathers encourage thought processes to drift to subliminal levels.  These simple objects also act to interlink the individual stories and the driving ideas that are communicated in a number of classroom size performance spaces. 

My plus one and I only really experienced four spaces fully. (I think there might be ten or more).  It is not a theatrical experience that can be rushed through.  The only way to see it all would be to go twice or more.  I’m tempted but perhaps part of its charm is this illusory quality.

In our first room the offering was beautiful crystal clear storytelling from a young female performer dressed in flower petals and lit through a sort of birdcage grid.  She talked of a dark space where a child is detained in fear.  Our initial guide was one of three young women who sang beautifully as they restricted the narrator with restraints attached to her costume.

As it was the first work I saw, it felt very pivotal to the whole.   However there is an interconnectivity linking all of the separate works that surely render them all pivotal to some degree.  This is a huge testament to Artistic Director Nadja Kostich and her production team and particularly design by Emily Barrie, where costume morphs into set and visa versa and holds integrated and essential meaning.

Our second room was about choices and particularly choices that require some examination of ethical thought.   As with St Martins’ most recent show Banjos, Boots & Beyonce,we the audience are encouraged to participate - to find ourselves cooperating and engaging in a prescribed exercise.  This is fun and absorbing.  And I believe Associate Artist Stefan Bramble is to be complimented for this engaging, thought-provoking, experience.

I am reminded of the writing of Isobelle Carmody - specifically her book of plays Way Out.  And in a room with talented musicians playing, as stones were placed on a girl’s body, the story ‘Singing my Sister Down’ by Margo Lanagan from her short story collection Black Juice.

One of the scenes/stories is seemingly about a child being pushed (by her mother) to public objectification.  This portrayal of ‘child as art’ turns the performance on itself and creates a kind of Meta thinking about the whole.  All that we are experiencing is from a Youth Arts Centre, that, on it’s web home page, states: Art by children for adult audiences.

For the Ones Who Walk Away is a haunting experience.  Perhaps, partly, because it is presented from the perspective of a the assumed innocence with which we endow children.  One of the things that stayed with me is searching looks from performers that questioned what I, as audience, was gleaning or understanding.

A heightened poetic language is particularly evident in the third and final section where we are all gathered together as spectators.  Ursula Le Guin’s poetic truncated language permeates the whole with a sense of struggle to create meaning from what has come before.

In the last ten minutes I could imagine myself in a hive of bees and the building of Siteworks a beehive.

All in all, exciting and challenging contemporary theatre.

Suzanne Sandow

Credits

Associate Director – Luke Kerridge

Dramaturgy and Video Design – Michael Carmody

Composition and Sound Design - Jethro Woodward

Set and Costume Design – Emily Barry

Lighting Design – Richard Vabre

Associate Artists:  Stefan Bramble, Kat Cornwell, Harriet Devlin, Lyndsay Marsden, Katy Maudlin, Joana Pires, Ahmarnya Price, Gabriel Collie and Jo Dunbar 

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