‘The Way of Us’ was devised and directed by Curtin’s Performance Studies’ Artist in Residence, Ellis Pearson. Pearson started professional life as a graphic designer in Durban, before turning his hand to sculpture and then the theatre. After qualifying at the University of Natal, Ellis went to Paris to develop the skills of mime and movement. Together with Nicolas Ellenbogens, they created the internationally recognised ‘Theatre for Africa’, travelled to Edinburgh and won a number of awards at the Fringe. Spurred on by his success, he teamed up with Bheki Mkhwane and Sue Clarence before travelling several continents with their unique style of theatre.
Meet at the Hayman Theatre no later than 7.20 pm, as the performances are in the Dance Studio on Curtin University campus, Kent Street, Bentley.
Performances run nightly until the 21st July.
A man (Waseem Parkar) and his wife (Tessa DiGrandi) are cleaning their house for the final time. Bombs are exploding all around them, as they have done for many months. Tomorrow the family will set off for a new life.
They gather their meagre belongings and wait for someone to take them to the boat. Finally the messenger (Hannah Hugessen) arrives, but the news is bad, despite having paid for the whole family, only one can travel. The brightest child is chosen (Amy Johnston) and she sets out alone, through hustle and bustle of the city to the dangerous docks.
On the way there are some pathetic cases, one woman (Georgia Smith) collapses with starvation. Another (Ella Churchward) is pregnant.
Will any of them ever make it to the boat, let alone the new world?
The other equally important players are - Sarah Bazeley, Michelle Endersbee, Sophie Joske, Emily Kingsley, Amber Moore, Emelia Peet, Jade Unwin and Briege Whitehead.
This tragic but heroic tale is told with courage, it is not depressing as it concentrates on the bravery and optimism of the travellers. The director, Ellis Pearson, and his two assistant directors, Rebecca Miller and Madeleine Currie, have made the decision to produce a wonderful drama with only a couple of props, the standard ceiling lights and a few candles. They have relied heavily on the costumes, movement and sound.
The two stage managers, Hayley Daffin and Ali MacKellar, are also in charge of the sound effects team. Pearson has cleverly trained the cast to use a myriad of strange instruments and everyday objects to produce the dissonance of the threatening elements, from the boom of the bombs to the swish of the sea.
The cast sing beautiful melodic and comforting songs to themselves, as they struggle on their way. The language sounds to be genuine Indonesian and the verse truly reassuring, however this is yet another illusion, it is just convincing and evocative gobbledygook.
In the crowd scenes everyone has a well-observed character, the place is alive. The inventive direction is fascinating, for example when a troop of mounted soldiers arrive, with the complex movements of the cast you really do ‘see’ the horses.
Please do not be put off by the topic, this is not a political message but a tale of suffering, courage and determination presented in a first class, unique way. The cast have shown how, with a lot of thought and effort, combined with total teamwork, visual and audio illusions can be truly convincing. Very clever theatre.
Musical with a Twist