The nature of identity is explored from different angles in this collaborative work by 11 artists
Every year as part of their 'Collective' program, PACT Centre for Emerging Artists work with a disparate group of emerging and early-career artists (selected via an open application process) to devise a new performance work. This year, the group chose to explore different notions of identity – genetic, philosophical, cultural and so on.
This is not perfect, polished work – it has been created in a short amount of time, by emergent artists working together for the first time. But it's straight from the heart, and it's brimming with potential – not just the 11 artists, at the beginning of careers, but the new ways of looking at things and new ways of making theatre that they bring to the show, iDNA.
In a series of discrete vignettes connected only by theme, Jorjia Gillis and Cheryn Frost talk about their Aboriginal identity and having to justify themselves to others; Emily Dash, performing in a wheelchair, enacts an emotional conversation with Anna Thomsen (playing her mother) about being born ‘different’; and Cath McNamara recounts a conversation with her father about finding one’s place in the world. Each of the 11 performers shares something of their experience of family, cultural inheritance and identity.
Some of the sequences are movement based – Alexandra Ford and Alison Eaton use very different dance forms to express ideas of conformity and individuality – while others are straight up dialogue scenes, or direct addresses to the audience. A bit of audience interaction folds us into the discussion, making it impossible to be merely an aloof observer.
While the nature of the 'Collective' beast is that it is rough and ready, there are ideas in here, and sequences, that would bear further development. One can only hope that these artists continue to find a place within the undernourished arts scene to develop their skills and contribute their perspectives.
In the wake of the US Election, and Peter Dutton's recent comments about Australia's immigration policy, iDNA feels like a timely statement about the things that bind us together as creatures-in-common, and the differences – which should be cherished, even celebrated.
This is made more poignant by the fact that the show comes out of PACT, an organisation that is facing extinction due to arts funding cuts.