LONG GRASS tells the story of living rough in Darwin, and mixes traditional Aboriginal mysticism with the harsher realities of indigenous life. The show touches on many issues facing the Aboriginal community there: unemployment, domestic and alcohol abuse, and it is hard to imagine the story being told would be anything but depressing, but the contrary was true: LONG GRASS was charming and captivating at every turn.
The term ‘long grass’ is applied to the Aboriginals who live on the fringe, homeless yet not without a community of their own. The influx of ‘New Australians’ to the top end receive housing, yet the Aboriginals camp out while the police and social services look the other way.
Director and choreographer Vicki Van Hout has put together an amazing production. The five characters dance their way through several sequences with influences from Indigenous tribal and classic ballet melding together in a seamless production. A centerpiece of the sparsely decorated set was what appeared to be a bed frame whose base was comprised of loose material crisscrossing it, that the actors used to step through at various times throughout the show. This frame had the appearance of old oversized lawn furniture, but was used to good effect as the women weaved the frame with material.
The music and sound was complimented by narration and short video clips about the homeless issue facing the Aboriginals in and around Darwin. About 1000 people sleep out in the long grass in Darwin every night and violence is a endemic among the long grassers.
Living ‘long grass’ certainly has its challenges, but in Van Hout’s imagining of these character’s plight, she has brought us a magical show that is wonderfully whimsical, funny, sad and erotic all at once.
Featuring: Katina Olsen, Taree Sansbury, Caleena Sansbury, Thomas E Kellyand Darren Edwards with Gary Lang and Phil Downing on voice, sound and sound design.
Director: Vicki Van Hout
A Sydney Festival event, LONG GRASS played the Everest Theatre at the Seymour Centre between the 14th and 18th January.
Joy Minter’s review was originally published on her website http://www.thebuzzfromsydney.com.