THE LINE

LUCY EYRE — MAY 17, 2019

“THE LINE”, making its world premiere at the State Theatre Centre, is a compelling and moving dance-theatre piece by co-creators Artistic Director Raewyn Hill and Co3 Australia Associate Artist Mark Howett. In line with the ethos of Co3 Australia, the State’s premier contemporary dance company, the production is certainly “generating contemporary conversations through dance”. The production portrays the absurdity and brutality of a dark period of West Australia’s history that reveals an apartheid-like system. Between 1927 and 1954 a five square kilometre area of the Perth city centre (and other areas of the state) was prohibited to Aboriginal people who had to show a ‘native pass’ if caught in the area after 6pm.

The simple yet remarkable set, jointly conceived by Raewyn Hill and Mark Howett consists of seven swings with long chains. As the curtain rises we see dancers Katherine Gurrand guest artist, Noongar dancer, Ian Wilkes on the upstage swings, swinging back and forth toward each other. This fascinating image is emotive and symbolic of the relationships between Aboriginal and white people: moving toward each other, then moving apart – missed opportunities for coming together.

Enter the third dancer, Andrew Searle, who plays the law enforcer, which prompts a comic, silent movie-like chase when Searle asks Wilkes for his pass. This motif is repeated during the piece and proves to be symbolic of the inequality that persists, disrupting the moment and all of the potential and opportunities.

Working alongside the dancers are two musicians who are positioned in the apron but often join the dancers on stage with live accompaniment. Guitar, piano, drums and vocals by Co3 associate artist, composer and music director Eden Mulholland are complemented by the amazing, internationally renowned classical accordionist, James Crabb. Their integral contribution to this production is flawless.

Co-directors Hill and Howett have created a powerful, entertaining and thought provoking piece giving the dancers an opportunity to combine dance and theatre and they certainly surpass the challenge. Gurr, Wilkes and Searle have seized the premise and choreography with enormous commitment, energy and intensity that deserves the highest praise. Their outstanding performances are mesmerising!

“THE LINE” and other productions such as Ochre Contemporary Dance Company’s “Kwongkan” (Sand) seen at Perth Festival, (also created and directed by Mark Howett), bring these ignored parts of history to the fore to encourage awareness and conversation. It is evident that dance companies are leading the way in Perth to(unashamedly) deliver bold and fierce productions that are finally reflecting Australia’s history. Howett admits “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 we actually start having a conversation about healing and equality.”Indeed, “THE LINE” provides glimpses of what that conversation could be and how the healing and equality can enrich all of our lives.

It is apparent that the creators and artists have done the research: from scouring 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. “THE LINE” has a richness in its narrative and performance that implicitly depicts multiple layers of history that resonate in 2019. The repetition of scenes represents the ongoing struggles that persist, and the effects of shame, violence, distrust, and disharmony that perpetuates and escalates. When the final scene continues relentlessly, even as the curtain falls, it is a powerful reminder of the circular pattern of events, of things that happened and continue today behind closed doors, that can no longer be ignored.

Don’t miss “THE LINE”. Only three shows left, closing on 19 May.
Dates: 17 – 19 May 2019
Venue: Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theatre Centre of Western Australia Performances: 17 and 18 May, 7:30pm; 19 May, 4pm
Tickets: Perth Theatre Trust www.ptt.wa.gov.au $25-$55
Photo credit: Daniel Carson.