Tag: David Page


Powerfully believable

By Myron My

Sugarland, the latest production by the Australian Theatre for Young People, is a play that revolves around the experiences of a group of teenagers living in Katherine, Northern Territory. With an upcoming singing competition as its focus, it’s a gritty and honest look at the challenges and difficulties teenagers in rural Australia often face, including homelessness, domestic violence, drugs and suicide.


The young cast played by Narek Arman, Xanthe Paige, Calen Tassone, Jonas Thomson and Dubs Yunupingu, have a deep understanding of the characters and their motivations, and develop them carefully into complex human beings. Under the watchful direction of Fraser Corfield and David Page, the five actors explore who these people are as the characters figure out where they belong in this mixed-up world. The choreography of the boxing fight between Jimmy and Aaron (Tassone and Arman) in particular is impressively directed, with both actors clearly in the moment and allowing their characters to take control of the situation.

Written by Rachael Coopes with Wayne Blair, the script and story remain plausibly natural and authentic: we believe this is the language that children are using, this is the way that children are feeling, and this is the way that children are behaving and finding a release from the difficulties they are facing. The choking scene between Jimmy and Erica (Paige) is one of the most intense and possibly disturbing scenes I have seen in theatre for quite some time. Meanwhile, Aaron’s singing of his sister’s Iraqi song, with Arman’s voice breaking right at the very end of it, is a great example of how the writing and performances portray what the characters are going through without needing to say much at all.While there are a few scenes that lack the required dramatic tension, such as Nina’s (Yunupingu) performance in the singing contest and her solution to getting her own house coming quite out of the blue, Sugarland still manages to be very effective in revealing the emotions of these teenagers as something genuine.

Jacob Nash‘s set design of red dirt and concrete-like tables and chairs are a strong reminder of the land these children inhabit, but also of the harsh, cold reality of the situations they face. The sound design by Guy Webster and the tour lighting design by Karen Norris further heighten the desperation and frustration that these characters are feeling throughout the play.

There is no immediate happy ending in Sugarland – maybe there is no happy ending at all – but it does finish on a note of hopefulness and positivity. If we want change to occur, we all need to want that change, and fight for it together. As one character states, “it’s about seeing past the bullshit and doing the right thing”. There really is no other way.

Sugarland was performed by the Australian Theatre for Young People at Arts Centre Melbourne between 19 -21 May 2016.

REVIEW: Bangarra Dance Company’s BLAK

Traditional and contemporary clash and coalesce

By Tania Herbert

Founded in 1989, the Bangarra Dance Company has been heralded as one of the most important Indigenous performance groups in Australia, and it’s easy to see why with their newest work, Blak.

Blak takes the audience members on a journey of exploration of what it means to be an Indigenous Australian in modern society, with several stories through dance depicting stories of men and women caught in a clash of cultures old and new.


The show opens with seven men in hoodies and skinny jeans- urbanized, disenfranchised and often violent, dancing an urban corroboree caught out of place and time. Through dynamic explosions of movement, we see the men slowly revert from lost inner city boys to men celebrating their traditional culture.

From the men we move to the women- and see a reverse story of women first from the sea, then moving to the village and into modern society  Equally engaging and impassioned, the piece deals with strong and emotive issues of women being silenced in modern society, a mother mourning the difficulties of passing on her culture to her daughters, and the fear of speaking out.

For me, however, the highlight of the performance was the following piece- where we saw men and women come together equally. Barely able to be differentiated from one another, the partner work was beautiful and uplifting. The performance closes with a stunning rain effect, and if the standing ovation of opening night was any indication, the audience was able to connect with the plethora of emotions portrayed by an amazingly talented troupe of dancers.

This is well and truly a contemporary dance show– the basic concepts are communicated clearly, but some of the complexities of the stories being told were not always so clear. However, when dancing is this beautiful, it is easy to just sit back and absorb.

The soundscape by composer David Page is an engaging as the dancing, with deep electronic beats interwoven with a haunting score, sounds of indigenous instruments, and stories told in English, Creole and Language. Costumes were beautifully designed and the onstage costume changes between modern and traditional presentation (including application of body paint) greatly added to the immersion experience.

Blak is playing at the Playhouse, Melbourne Arts Centre, and will then be touring in NSW. See website for more details: www.bangarra.com.au

Melbourne performances:

Tues 7 May, 6.30pm

8 – 11 May 2013, 8pm

Saturday 11 May, 2pm matinee

Tickets: $29 – $89

Bookings: http://artscentremelbourne.com.au or call 1300 182 183