A story of Birrarung
An AustralianPlays.org script spotlight
I’ve been looking at old photographs of Koori warriors and people. I’m interested in using theatre to empower these objects again, to bring them back to life...
We're adding some new scripts to BlakStage, our
showcase of contemporary Indigenous scripts. In celebration of NAIDOC
Week, we thought we'd find out a bit more about these writers. Here's Andrea James with The Forever Zone...
Andrea is one of the country's busiest theatre-makers. Her recent projects including Bully Beef Stew, which she directed, and co-wrote with performers Sonny Dallas Law, Bjorn Stewart and Colin Kinchela, and Corranderrk: We Will Show the Country with Giordano Nanni, for the Minutes of Evidence project and Ilbijerri.
Her best known play to date is Yanagai! Yanagai!, which you can find out more about here.
Andrea was commissioned to write The Forever Zone in 2009, for White Whale Theatre's Melburnalia No. 2, designed as a platform for 'alternative voices.'
Here's an excerpt from the media release for the show, which premiered at fortyfivedownstairs:
Each Melburnalia No. 2 play takes as its subject a different suburb – ‘Birrarung’ (by Andrea James), Maribyrnong (by Hoa Pham), Caulfield (by Danny Katz), Preston (by Kit Lazaroo) and Mentone (by Aidan Fennessy).
In bringing these localities to life the writers, actors, designers and crew have drawn on their varied personal experiences and cultural backgrounds including Malaysian, Vietnamese, Yorta Yorta, Polish, Canadian-Jewish, Irish, Indian, Chinese-Indonesian, Chinese and Scottish.
The best-known Melbourne narrative is that it is a city of great creativity and culture, boasting a stylish lifestyle crammed with great coffee, food, shopping and art. While this may be true, the playwrights in Melburnalia No. 2 have highlighted less recognised civic characteristics that reveal a different city with each telling.
Koori writer / director Andrea James wrote against the grain of the brief by naming her locality ‘Birrarung’ (in Wurundjeri river of mists).
“We don’t have ‘suburbs’ in Aboriginal Melbourne. That’s a colonial construct. In Aboriginal Melbourne there are tribal, clan and language groups often defined by natural land features and waterways”.
Having set her piece on a tram near the Yarra with a warrior from The Forever Zone wearing a traditional possum skin cloak, she explains that:
“I’ve been looking at old photographs of Koori warriors and people. I’m interested in using theatre to empower these objects again, to bring them back to life, to animate them.”
One of the six talented actors in Melburnalia is Bryan Andy, a young Yorta Yorta man who finds that theatre is a 'perfectly suited forum for maintaining the oral traditions of Aboriginal culture.'
Bryan moved to Melbourne at 18 from an Indigenous community of 200 at Cummeragunja (near Echuca). In Melbourne his politically engaged, artistic and homosexual identity is less restricted than it was in non-Indigenous country Victoria.
Though he has greatly enjoyed playing Aboriginal characters in other productions including the internationally toured Yanagai! Yanagai! he relishes this new opportunity: “It’s nice to play a cynical writer from Caulfield South and a range of characters from Mentone...three cheers for colour-blind casting!”
Sounds like a fantastic production, doesn't it? If you missed it, at least you can now read Andrea's script....
The script The Forever Zone is available here.