Wondrous flights of theatrical imagination collide with government action

Tabac rouge 2015“Is this the story of a musician, a creator, a tyrant, an old fool? No, and Pergolesi is very unhappy to be dead: he doesn’t have the opportunity to reply.” This is the answer from the “Personnage” in “interview” notes in the program for Sydney Festival’s Tabac Rouge at Sydney Theatre, until January 23. Director, creator and central character, James Thierree, seen seated in the photo above with contortionist Valerie Doucet, has created another extraordinary production designed to disorient and amaze. See Jill Sykes’s Sydney Morning Herald review.

Set in a derelict darkened space inhabited by acolytes to an unpredictable “Personnage” and furnished with constantly moving bizarre machines, Tabac Rouge was both epic and episodic. It was violent and tender, organic with the flow of acrobats and dancers, mechanistic with the introduction of strange pieces of equipment assembled from a wild assortment of scraps. Lights flickered and glared, smoke poured from odd places, sound soared and thundered. Illusion abounded. A giant fragmented mirror and later a camera interrogated the soul, provoked confusion or became tools of comedy. This whole cavernous world seemed uncertain and out of control.

I began to wonder if I was dying, too, as changing scenes triggered endless associations with times past – Peter Sellers as Dr Strangelove; individual patients on Male Ward 1, Parramatta Psychiatric Centre, where I worked in the late 1960s, David Wenham as the arsonist in Louis Nowra’s play Cosi; the amazing sensiblities of the wonderful actor/director Aanisa Vylet; the intense intelligence of activist writer/actor Michael Mohammed Ahmad; Bonney Djuric’s Les Oubliettes in Exposed to Moral Danger at the former Parramatta Girl’s Home; and Kaz Therese’s passionate commitment to authentic story telling. Something more than just the sum of its parts, Tabac Rouge is superbly skilful, breathtaking, and variously deafening and poignant.

1-Puncture final layoutCloser to home, Sydney Festival is bringing Puncture to Riverside Theatres, Parramatta, from January 22 to 25. Puncture brings together FORM dance, physical theatre company Legs on the Wall and Sydney Philharmonia Choirs. They present a kaleidoscope of dance through time and space. “Watching bodies moving in rhythm, you are guided from the restraint and formality of classical dance through the sensuality of the tango, to the rebellion of youth and the freedom of dance.” All to Stefan Gregory’s score inspired by the great songwriters and sung live by a 30 voice choir. Two leading Australian dance artists, Kristina Chan and Joshua Thomson, lead 12 young dancers on to the floor.

Click here for information and bookings.

I was still thinking about my previous post Election looms – what happens now about arts precinct for North Parramatta? as I walked through Millers Point to Sydney Theatre and Tabac Rouge. Notices outside many houses owned by the NSW Department of Housing declared resistance to the eviction of occupants, so that the government could reap financial benefit. Some were lifelong residents and even third generation, who had been given abrupt notice only months ago. It was a needlessly cruel process.

In a submission to the Department of Planning & Environment about the Parramatta North Urban Renewal Transformation Project, a Parramatta resident points out that Planning Minister Pru Goward declared “. . . the public good must be front and centre” when announcing the formalisation of The Statement of Principles generated for the Bays Precinct Renewal Project in November 2014. No such statement exists for the nationally significant North Parramatta Heritage site. This has led the resident to fear that neither the NSW Government nor UrbanGrowth NSW consider the site as having the importance they purport to extol. It’s a fear expressed by other community members.

To be confronted with the unjust treatment of Millers Point residents is a nasty reminder of just how unfair and untrustworthy governments can be.

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