Biladurang

Theatre, Drama
4 out of 5 stars
Biladurang Sydney Festival 2019
Photograph: Pippa Samaya

This intimate solo performance for Sydney Festival unfolds in a hotel room

One of the best things a festival can do is make you look at a city, and the spaces within it, in a slightly different light. That’s exactly what happens in Australian dancer Joel Bray’s Biladurang, in which he invites a group of around 16 people into his suite for a glass of bubbles and some rather intimate confessions.

The show is part monologue, part chat and participatory performance, and part contemporary dance work. At one point, he leaves the suite to take a bath – footage of which is beamed into the bedroom on CCTV – and returns covered in soap suds. He then dresses and continues the story. That Bray is able to make something cohesive out of all these different elements is down largely to his humour, charisma and openness with the audience. It’s impressive that it never feels intimidating, despite the intimacy of the set-up (and the nudity).

The work was developed when Bray was touring and living between various cities. Hotels had become his home in many ways, but there’s something about those temporary spaces that can leave you feeling unanchored. And, in a lot of ways, the show is about Bray’s search for an anchor as he floats around the world. He shares stories from his life, musing on his sexual awakening as a gay man, the way he relates to sex now, and how he’s perceived by the world as a light-skinned Wiradjuri man. It turns out, the thing that holds Bray together is his connection to country and the stories of his ancestors – particularly the story of the biladurang, or platypus. When he turns the focus onto the audience, and asks their origin story, the connections formed are deeply moving.

This is a review of the Brisbane Festival season of Biladurang.

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