Reflections: Referendum 40 years and to the futureReflections: Referendum 40 Years and to the Future, directed by renowned Indigenous artist Leah Purcell, and performed by graduating students of the Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts (ACPA), was a spirited piece of political theatre, dealing with the lead-up to and after-effects of the 1967 referendum, and what it means to be an Indigenous person in Australia today.

The Aboriginal Centre for Performing Arts seeks to develop and enhance the Indigenous Performing Artist as a skilled practitioner in the Australian Performing Arts industry. Reflections was created by the 2007 graduating performance students after extensive research into the 1967 referendum, which included meeting with prominent Elders to consider the past, present and future of Indigenous Australian life.

The strength of this performance was its approachability. Often it seems that stories or performances of an Indigenous nature meet a certain degree of hesitance and reluctance. The last thing one wants when they go out for a night of entertainment is to be lectured at. Thankfully, Reflections surpasses that all-too-often encountered type of political theatre that blames the world and offers no solutions. Pitched instead at youth, and created by youth, it uses modes and forms familiar to youth in order to involve the audience - not just educate the audience - in the issues. This particular type of forum works for this show because it uses the grass roots approach - make it popular to the people so they really hear what you are saying, not just how you are saying it. 

The downside to youth theatre is that it inevitably has a degree of amateurism. Obvious and clichéd performance choices were frequent throughout Reflections, such the ‘repeated whisper effect’ (where several people repeat the same words over and over ‘to dramatic effect’) or the spoof ‘Bring It On’ scene. These are the types of dramatic conventions one would expect from a high school production, but perhaps not from graduating students of a higher education institution.

These moments however did not take away from some of the stunning individual performances that were given. Vocalists Geogia Corowa and Tracey Mazzoni easily stole the show with their soothing and terrifying melodies. The beautiful Georgia Corowa mesmerized her audience with her large deep eyes and soulful tunes, while Tracey Mazzoni’s husky tones proved that this girl has a definite future in music. The rap/hip hop music that was performed was energizing, funky and edgy, and perfectly appealed to the younger audience, while also setting some of the older audience members’ toes’ tapping.

The dancing was at times inspiring, with beautiful moments of surprise. The 'Stolen’ dance was performed with great precision, and the connection between the four young dancers was evident by their intimate gestures and heightened awareness of each other’s bodies in space. Again, more contemporary methods of dance expression, such as contemporary dance, hip hop and iconic 60s dance movements were used to appeal to a wider audience. The traditional Indigenous dances were not as frequent throughout the production as I expected, which was an interesting surprise.

Reflections: Referendum 40 Years and to the Future was entertaining, and educational, but did not pack a very hard punch. Instead, it sought to bring the issues surrounding Indigenous Australians to the surface in a positive light, one that enlightened and inspired the audience’s interest, rather than imposing certain views upon them. Reflections has the ability, if nothing else, to make people talk to each other about the issues. Talking is the first step, and Reflections ought to be congratulated for encouraging its audience to take it.


QPAC, the Aboriginal Centre for the Performing Arts and Bungabura Productions present
REFLECTIONS
Referendum 40 years and to the future

Venue: Cremorne Theatre, QPAC
Dates/Times:
Tuesday,15 April, 6.30pm
Wednesday 16 April, 12pm and 7.30pm
Thursday 17 April, 10am and 1pm
Friday 18 April, 12pm and 7.30pm
Saturday 19 April, 2pm and 7.30pm
Tickets: $16.50 to $26.50 (incl fees)
Bookings: qtix 136 246 or www.qtix.com.au

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