The Line is a story of segregation, confinement, abandonment and cross-racial relationships loosely-set in the 1930s in Perth. Co-created by Artistic Director Raewyn Hill and Co:3 Australia Associate Artist Mark Howett this powerful dance-theatre work draws on the rich history that resulted from the enforcement of the prohibited areas for Aboriginal people in the City of Perth and other areas of Western Australian between 1927 and 1954.
On 18 March 1927, the Governor of Western Australia relied on the 1905 Act to declare the City of Perth a Prohibited Area for Aboriginal people. Aboriginal people now committed an offence if they came within a boundary of approximately five square kilometres encompassing the city, unless they could show they were in ‘lawful employment’. In an attempt to discourage ‘camp natives’ from loitering, Chief Protector of Aboriginals, AO Neville, introduced a special ‘native pass’ to allow those Aboriginal people who had ‘legitimate reason’ to pass through the city.
During one of their regular Co:3 collaborations Mark Howett relayed the story of the Prohibited Area to Raewyn Hill. They realised there was an opportunity for Co:3 to bring to life an important local story, reflective of national and international experiences of racial segregation.
The Line also includes references to White City, a notorious entertainment area behind the Supreme Court Gardens, featuring swings, games of chance, boxing, log chopping, bands, canned music and dancing. It was popular with Perth’s indigenous people as well as the white population and considered a ‘gambling blot’ on the whole state, a den of inequity, a magnet for larrikins and loafers and a terrible menace to the youth of the city.
The 1927 Prohibited Area declaration, compelling those indigenous people not on “lawful business” to leave the city, gave Neville the excuse he needed to control the movements of Aborigines in White City and the Prohibited Areas.
Howett and Hill along with Co:3 dancers Andrew Searle and Katherine Gurr and Guest Artist, Noongar dancer, Ian Wilkes have researched the period together during the development of the work. They have drawn on information in the State Records; Stephen Kinnane’s family memoir ‘Shadow Lines’; and consulted with elders including Lynette Narkle, Richard Walley, Darryl Kickett and author Professor Anna Haebich.
Raewyn Hill said, “The Line began with us looking at the Prohibited Area, but the work initiates a global conversation about separation, segregation, and social expectations. We discuss humanity, and the quality of being humane, privilege and trauma, truth and listening, and importantly The Line is an opportunity for us to acknowledging the history that lives in the veins of so many of us that reside in our glorious city. “
“I believe, that in order to grow one has to go through a journey of truth telling, and to do that there needs to be acknowledgment, recognition and compassion. It is crucial so that that we actually start having a conversation about healing and equality.”
Mark Howett said that what he finds intriguing are the parallels between the enforcement of the prohibited areas and recent State initiatives to protect indigenous youth. For instance, the 2003 curfew that gave police and community development officers authority to enforce powers under the Child Welfare Act to remove unaccompanied children and young people from Northbridge in Perth’s CBD after 10pm. These measures to keep youths off inner-city streets in Perth were slammed for unfairly singling out Aborigines.
The Line investigates a difficult and sensitive subject, the performance is imbued with Hill’s distinctive image and movement language, Howett’s impeccably directed story and song, alongside humour, sarcasm and comedy. Co3’s cast are joined on stage with live accompaniment by Co:3 Associate Artist and award-winning musician Eden Mulholland and internationally renowned classical accordionist, James Crabb.
The Line shifts and shudders with the strength of contemporary voice, consciously echoing with the energy and movement of an unjust and painful past. A living history, a line that connects to an experience of the local community that is deeply soaked into place, land and memory.
Dates: 15 – 19 May 2019
Venue: Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of Western Australia
Performances: 15 – 18 May, 7:30pm; 19 May, 4pm
Tickets: Perth Theatre Trust www.ptt.wa.gov.au $25-$55
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