nargun_revAs Wesley Enoch chats with Australian Stage’s Sarah Wells from sweltering Melbourne in the wake of the successful first run of visual theatre company ERTH’s The Nargun and the Stars, the award winning director is ebullient.

The production, which played at the Sydney Festival from January 15 to 19, and is soon to grace the stage of the Regal Theatre as part of the Perth International Arts Festival, is Verity Laughton’s adaptation of Patricia Wrightson’s classic Australian novel, and promises amazing mythical Indigenous beings, fantastic flying creatures and of course, the giant three metre by four metre Nargun.

“It’s amazing because it’s a world premiere,” says Enoch. “It’s all about the unknown. No one’s ever done it before. And Perth… I know we’re already thinking how we can make it better and improve it all the time so that’s going to be good, too.”

Having been invited to a creative development project that Sydney-based ERTH were conducting, the Murri playwright and artistic director discovered in this work not only a fantastic story, but one of great cultural significance as well.

“For me,” Enoch says, “there’s always a purpose to the work that I do, and that is to tell a story that can affect the way people think about this country. This whole story about a non-indigenous boy - in fact, he’s an orphan as well - trying to find connection to place; I think it’s a really interesting metaphor for where we are in this country at the moment, too.

He goes on, “It’s almost that Patricia Wrightson was before her time in so many ways and it’s interesting that when she was writing, maybe the politics were about adults understanding Indigenous Australia and the landscape and what we find now is it’s actually the kids that are leaders in their understanding of where they come from. Books like The Nargun and the Stars have really paved the way for kids to understand and create a whole new generation of people who understand what it means to be in this country.”

Enoch himself became involved in theatre from a very young age. “I was maybe 12 or 13 and theatre became our real outlet, a way of me expressing myself.” He continues, “I found that theatre and the ability to communicate and tell stories, I suppose, really helped shape who I am now.”

And for the audiences of this production? What would Enoch like for kids to take away with them?  Firstly he says, it’s the importance of connection. “Connection with people as well as connection with landscape.”

And secondly, well, “why think about fairies and goblins and trolls and all of this stuff, when we have all our own stories of those kinds of creatures here in Australia? So it’s about saying, ‘Look around the garden and the landscape and the bush and imagine what the fairies and trolls and goblins and elves and whatever else are like for this country.’”
{xtypo_quote_right}Kids should not be talked down to in the theatre. They should always be encouraged to extend themselves and think{/xtypo_quote_right}
“There’s a particular scene where Simon, the young boy, goes swimming and this mythical creature, the Potkoorok, takes him underwater and swims through this spring to the mountain and it’s a beautiful moment cos you don’t expect him to be able to fly and suddenly he just leaps into the air and off he goes and it’s really quite a surprise and quite beautiful.” 

These kinds of moments, Enoch says, represent another highly fulfilling facet about the production. “If you give (kids) a whole palette like you would with an adult audience, you find they rise to the occasion and that’s pretty amazing - to watch kids cope with really beautiful poetry and lovely images and the active imagination it takes to create a piece like this.” He adds, “Kids should not be talked down to in the theatre. They should always be encouraged to extend themselves and think.”

The Nargun and the Stars is a massive undertaking, he says. “There’s maybe 12 people backstage trying to make everything work: lights and sound and projection and fly tower and these big puppets moving through the space and trying to organise people in the space.” And, he continues, “visual theatre IS magical! You just go ‘Wow, how did they do that? How did they create that image?’ It’s quite exciting.”

Finally, Wesley Enoch wants you to know why you should bring your kids to the theatre. He says, “Most people involved in theatre will talk about that one moment where an aunt or an uncle or a mother or a father or whoever took them to see theatre when they were a child and how that kind of changed their life, changed their world. 

“Because of this magical experience in a theatre… by exposing kids to really creative and communicative worlds through books or plays you help make them really great human beings, I think; creative and imaginative as human beings, which would solve every problem in the world… I hope. 

“We’ve all got to do our little bit, so that’s my thing, saying, ‘Why bring kids to come and see theatre? Because you want to help them become imaginative and creative.’”

Hear, hear.

The Nargun and the Stars plays as part of the Perth International Arts Festival at the Regal Theatre from Thursday, February 19 until Sunday, March 1. Further information»

Top Right - The Nargun and the Stars. Photo - Prudence Upton

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