Review: Crawl Me Blood

Audio drama unearths colonial ghosts 

By Lois Maskiell

Inspired by Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, which earned canonical status for telling the story behind Charlotte Brontë’s madwoman in the attic, Crawl Me Blood is an immersive experience that looks at the Caribbean Creole identity in today’s context.

Set in the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria and presented by Aphids and the Melbourne Writers Festival, this primarily audio-based drama boasts a spectacular backdrop that evokes the landscape of an unspecified Caribbean island full of over-ripe guavas, rustling palms and tropical heat.

Director/writer duo, Halcyon Macleod and Willoh S. Weiland each have their own connection to the Caribbean: Halcyon is of Jamaican heritage and Willoh was born in Belize to white Australian parents. Their connection to the region’s complex histories and identity politics lays the foundation for the drama that involves three generations of Creole women.

When 18-year-old Antoinette leaves Australia and visits her mother Gwen’s birthplace to attend her grandmother’s funeral, she discovers why her mother’s memories of the island are fraught with hostility. With small radio speakers in hand, the participants stroll through the gardens listening to the experiences of these women as narrated by Zahra Newman (Melbourne Theatre Company, Book of Mormon).

As tensions develop between Antoinette’s mother and her relatives, we hear a woman wonder why the Creoles of European descent still hold the majority of money and property, despite the emancipation law of 1833. The others dismiss this comment and the conversation shifts subject.

Like in Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea, the effects of colonialism on racial tensions are displayed in a personal account of family, heritage and belonging – amid wild and secretive surroundings.

Crawl Me Blood lives up to its title by digging up our colonial pasts to present their ongoing impressions and what better location to stage it in than the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, one of Australia’s very own haunts.

Co-created by Halcyon Macleod and Willoh S. Weiland. Composed by Felix Cross, performed by Natasha Jynel and Zahra Newman. System design by Matt Daniels, video by Lucy Benson, Lighting by Lucy Birkinshaw and photograph by Bryony Jackson. 

Crawl Me Blood was performed at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria for one evening only, 29 August. See here for more information.   

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