Gloriously unsettling re-education
By Owen James
Geelong’s ‘Back to Back Theatre’ have created confronting and inspiring theatre with ‘The Shadow Whose Prey The Hunter Becomes’. Performed by five neuro-diverse artists, this journey through contemporary issues opens our eyes and our hearts in its hope to re-educate the public and defeat debilitating stigma.
‘Shadow’ is a triumph of collaboration, confirmed in the programme notes by writer John Bailey – which speak to the two and a half years of discussion that have fuelled this work and are ingrained in its every seam. So truthful and direct are the statements and questions posed throughout that they are sometimes shocking to process. Director Bruce Gladwin has weaved together conversive threads tackling First Nations recognition, the appropriateness of the term ‘disability’, ableism and attached intrinsic shame, disgraced public figures (such as Kevin Spacey) and whether their art can still morally be enjoyed, and the divisive future of AI. The heated and well-paced debates rationalise common thinking but also open our eyes to new, dangerous perspectives. These are the conversations we should be having, presented by a group with minds different to our own who recognise the juncture contemporary society is at.
Performers Michael Chan, Mark Deans, Simon Laherty, Sarah Mainwaring and Scott Price use their diversity to teach patience and acceptance. Their resilience stirs dreams of true, blind inclusivity, quickly unifying everyone in the room and imploring us to engage with their heartfelt message. Through humour and provocative, edgy assertions, a warm determination grows, and then hangs over the audience as we leave the theatre. This feeling hasn’t really left me since seeing the piece, proving Back to Back Theatre’s ability to yield a very successfully robust, enduring message through their art. It’s a demonstration of how theatre can challenge and teach when in the right hands.
I’ll certainly be along to see more of Back to Back’s permeating work in the future, and I recommend you don’t miss this hopeful, bold depiction of our confusingly contrary reality.
Runs until 20th October as part of Melbourne International Arts Festival at the Fairfax Studio: https://www.festival.melbourne/2019/events/the-shadow-whose-prey-the-hunter-becomes/
Photography by Zan Wimberley