Posts tagged ‘Cockatoo Island’



presented by Strings Attached & Younes Bachir
Underbelly Arts Festival, Turbine Hall, Cockatoo Island, July 2011

This site-specific, one-off performance was probably the hottest ticket on the island last Saturday, and those lucky enough to get a booking were mostly unsure what to expect. If they had done the Underbelly Arts Lab tour in the fortnight leading up to the festival they might have known it would be physical, aerial theatre exploring humanity in its primal, post-catastrophic element. But we should know better than to reduce expressionism down to baser meanings, and be ready to accept a performance as it stands. Or in this case, take it as it runs, desperately seeking food or shelter, oblivious to the peering masses of onlookers crowding the cavernous space, we should take this sort of theatre as it screams, as it flies, as it hungers, as it fights for survival. For the one thing it does not do is simply stand still. Or when it does, it’s as a metaphor covered in meat.

As this performance is once-only I feel at liberty to explain; the bulk of the piece takes place at one end of the massive turbine hall. After a poetic prologue from a delirious flying dreamer we are invited through, behind canvas curtains, into a place he describes as “my mind”. There are no seats, and milling around we discover various bodies twisted, shivering amongst mud and metal wreckage, pieces of cars, clotheslines, the detritus of our time. If anyone else like me had been irked by the glut of “disaster porn” earlier this year, it was irresistible to be reminded of that by the shifting, shuffling crowd, not wanting to look too close, but all angling for a glimpse of these suffering humans. Too evocative of that unspeakable pain we could not help but see broadcast over and over to the point of fatigue.

So begins a series of violent theatrical vignettes as the people emerge from the wrecked piles of junk and literally, metaphorically and physically begin to rebuild society. What was a matter of desensitisation is now shocked back at us in the wonderful post-industrial expressionism of a crazed world. Echoes of Lord of the Flies and Tetsuo: Bodyhammer resonate to capture the bizarre fusion of human and technology, fear and futurism. The audience are as much involved as spectator, being shunted around as new elements of the performance begin or end we must move toward or away from the action. It’s pure spectacle and music in Aristotle’s terms; with characters as primal archetypes in mimesis, the barest of narrative as a visual catharsis.

I always wonder why ‘traditional’ theatre writers can’t seem to cope with new forms as these. Audiences seem to love it. It’s equally puzzling when all the elements of the convention are present, just managed in new ways, new styles. But then, I suppose traditional theatre writers are too busy sharpening their pen-knives to dissect traditional theatre to worry about turning up to something so unconventionally imagined as this. It’s definitely theatre, definitely modern, and definitely just a little bit ancient and primal, too. Well I for one; don’t mind if one less critic is in the audience. OJO was sold out, so more luck for the rest of us.

photos by Catherine McElhone –

OJO: at the Underbelly Arts Festival, Cockatoo Island. Featuring Younes Bachir, Alejandro Rolandi, LeeAnne Litton, Dean Cross, Kathryn Puie, Angela Goh, Matt Cornell, Mark Hill, Kate Sherman, Carolyn Eccles, Gideon PG, Robbie Ho, Matt Rochford, Elisa Bryant, Charlie Shelly, Julia Landery, Victoria Waghorn, Cameron Lam, Craig Hull, Leanne Kelly.


20/07/2011 at 5:10 pm 2 comments


‘Art with a capital A’ gives mainstream critics the kind of creamed jeans you read about in one of those magazines. Mention folk-art and watch them glaze over, thinking of leather stitching, basket weaving or (at best) those ironic life size paddle-pop-stick figures devised by Marge Simpson. Stuff that belongs at a market stall, not an art gallery, right? Leave Real Art to those who know.

Continue Reading 14/05/2010 at 3:58 pm Leave a comment

Everyone’s a F’kn Comedian

REVIEW: World’s Funniest Island
Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour, October 17-18

…I found myself hanging around with ten or so performers, as the likes of Greg Fleet and Rick Shapiro got up to do unscheduled sets, heckling each other and generally living large as the weekend drew to a close. Moments like this sum up the warmth of the festival, as what is a very closely-knit comic community all gather.

Continue Reading 20/10/2009 at 2:28 pm Leave a comment

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since 2009

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