Photos – Kate Holmes
Driving into Lismore through mist-laden valleys and low-lying cloud, en route to another original production by NORPA, I had no idea what I was about to review. I like to be surprised and make sure I am a mushroom, prior to any show (I don’t want others’ voices rattling around in my blank brain). Just on dusk and the sky was foreboding, yet ever-changing, with dramatic promise. The sky was, in fact, a precursor for what was to ensue.
As the seating at Lismore City Hall was ‘shotgun-on-the-night’, we made sure we arrived early enough to secure prime position! Early enough, indeed, to order the Road Kill Platter from the pop-up restaurant at the front of the theatre. Early enough to secure a wine and to look at all the road signs, bush arrangements in tyres and other semiotics: Is there a theme happening here, I pondered?
Being five shows into the season already, I thought there would not be too many people to fight over the seats, but after nabbing our perfect seats, I watched the audience file in, take their places, watching the later-comers fill in the gaps. Full house? I think so. I overheard an audience member saying, “… we are so fortunate to have NORPA and this theatre right here in Lismore – you could not do better if you lived in Sydney or Melbourne….” Yes, I am in full agreement.
The show commences with an emotive ‘Welcome to Country’, NORPA recognising the original custodians of the region (this always brings a tear to my eye). The buzz is beginning, the music starts and the five all-female actors infiltrate, taking their positions: we are made part of the whole, already, from the get-go. Pumping and palpable, recognisable and innovative, the yoga mats are alive and Eva (all five of them) have the audience in the palm of their collective hands. We laugh: we recognise ourselves; we relate on all levels (some more than others, tee hee) and when Eva screams out ‘namaste’ after a particularly splendid choreographed sequence, we are totally undone. This physical theatre continues throughout the show, coupled with incredibly creative props (car-props were pure genius) with the lighting and stage setting reminiscent of the trip into Lismore that very evening! Minimalist maximisation at its theatrical best!
Contemporary and very-locally-themed, this collaborative show ticks all entertainment boxes (hashtag delivering themes and nuances everyone can relate to). Surprises abound from campsite settings (the sleeping bag song and dance brought the house down) to the quintessential Ozzie-bloke portrayed as only a woman-in-a-man-outfit can achieve!! Having an all female cast (and mostly females in the creative team, too, I might add) showcases, yet again, the pure essence of NORPA and their theatrical ethos.
The Journey has never been so well portrayed, with the meltdown-moment of “millennials, gluten-free and privileged… proud of their local community yet worldly too,” and other familiar (life) vignettes bringing the total show home to the audience. The physicality, and inventiveness, of this wondrous epic has so many whip-cracking moments (literally) and is so totally engaging, I could watch this performance over and over again and still miss many of the nuances. Wildskin is a visual and emotional feast. “We’re all on the run from something or caught in our own traps…” and I swear the choreographed ‘roadkill’ being dragged from the stage (how did YOU keep that position for so long) was worth the freight alone.
Quoting from the program: “Wildskin has been created through a devised theatre making process. It’s a collective creation, a method of theatre making in which the script and performance originates from a collaborative, often improvised process by a performing ensemble. Devised theatre is strongly aligned with physical theatre. The cast of Wildskin were chosen to bring together their strengths in the forms of dance, acrobatics, clowning and acting.”
Hashtag Bravo to that, NORPA: I thought Railway Wonderland and Dreamland could not be surpassed – I was wrong. Wildskin has lodged in my psyche and you had me at ‘namaste’!
NORPA and Southern Cross University present
A NORPA Production
Director Julian Louis
Venue: Lismore City Hall | Lismore NSW
Dates: 28 Sept – 6 Oct, 2018
Tickets: $20 – $49
Bookings: www.norpa.org.au | 1300 066 772