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This Fleeting World, Centre for Australasian Theatre This Fleeting World, Centre for Australasian Theatre
photo Rosie Browning
Living in the deep north of Queensland there’s a heightened feeling of transience, of nature, weather and people constantly on the move. It’s a microcosm of the larger urban demographic but with a sense of community amplified by cultural tourism, which accounts for 80% of the economic equation and the influx of millions of travellers into the region. The uninitiated pursue experience and adventure, while the boomerang of return visitors and peoples to home and country interchanges with life-stylers seeking sea/tree change and migrants hoping for a better way.

Like an estuary tide, this human motion underpins the core of the Centre for Australasian Theatre’s This Fleeting World. The work questions what it means to sense, to feel, to grapple, to be flesh of this earth, if only for a moment. Intertwining an episodic journey with intercultural physical theatre and existential vignettes, the work harnesses a raft of creatives to undertake immersive meditations on the pilgrimage of shared human existence in a transient world.

On entering the work I receive a glossy A4 program revealing a delightful map of “this fleeting world showing the journey” accompanied by a legend of 15 scenes depicting a melting pot of pilgrims undertaking “a journey for their soul rather than their identity.” Piano and percussion are oriented to the right side of the audience who are seated facing the seven performers. The work unfolds over 80 minutes as the performers traverse three basic human behaviours—attraction, repulsion and indifference via the legend’s “home...fields...summit”—on a visceral quest to reach a plateau of mutual acceptance.

This Fleeting World is inspired by the discovery by director Willem Brugman of a prayer hidden in a small, rice paper Buddhist Heart Sutra booklet. With dramaturg Catherine Hassall, the director and performers have composed a poetic treatment for the work using Asian-inclined somatic performance training techniques. The resulting “transmogrifications of being” channel an expressionistic stream of consciousness that would rival Linda Blair’s performance in the 70s film The Exorcist.

The work doesn’t suffer the blank faces of some contemporary dance, nor is it a work of sparse minimalism. The large-scale projected paintings of country by Mavis Ngallametta from Aurukun and potted cultural interjections from the players interact with Linda Jackson’s fluid indigo costumes, to provide an undulating hippie gothic vibe, that won some converts. As one of the audience commented, “not your average primate.”

Built through a two-year development, This Fleeting World had a work-in-progress showing last year, and while the ensemble is relatively new, it’s encouraging to see members maturing and increasingly coming to terms with the movement/text relationship and poetics that populate the work. Much of each performer’s background is invested in the work, the diversity lending itself to the cause and highlighting cultural complexities—those moments where people fumble to communicate, where things are lost in translation, teetering on the edge of misinterpretation, misrecognition and quasi comprehension. The clarity of movement of Eko Supriyanto from Java and Aboriginal Australian Warren Clements contrasted with the rambling utterances and gesticulating of a crouching cluster of performers questing to understand, acknowledge and empathise.

While strengths and weaknesses were evident, This Fleeting World pinpoints the skill, interpretive ability and cultural contribution of each collaborator. The mix of artists—indigenous, non-indigenous and culturally diverse—is reminiscent of the ethos that our community is our theatre company.

Centre for Australasian Theatre, This Fleeting World, director Willem Brugman, dramaturg Catherine Hassall, costumes Linda Jackson, set design Guy & Gina Allain, painting Mavis Ngallametta, ensemble Warren Clements, James Daley, Piers Freeman, Zelda Grimshaw, Catherine Hassall, Dobi Kidu, Miyako Masaki, Lou van Rikxoort, Nasser Selimi, Eko Supriyanto; Centre of Contemporary Arts Cairns, 16-25 April

RealTime issue #127 June-July 2015 pg. 33

© Rebecca Youdell; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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