In the program note, Artistic Director, Rosie Dennis describes Urban Theatre Project’s latest site-based, experiential and multifarious arts offering as an “ode” to the history and people of Blacktown.
And Right Here. Right Now. (RHRN) definitely felt like an ode to place for me. Not an elaborate, exultant or pompous kind of ode (something the word might conjure for some) but a musing, light-hearted, deep-feeling and honest kind of ode. Think Pablo Neruda’s Odes to Common Things.
Part installation and performance, part urban guided tour, part welcome dinner, RHRN is a bit like a choose-your-own-adventure where you’re not quite sure what the journey holds or how it finishes. You’re both observer and player moving through a series of scenes or sites.
We all start the journey together with Memories from this Place. We’re blessed and cleansed from the smoke billowing out of the fire bucket. Shoppers push trolleys, families go about their business, cars stop to pick up, drop off, and move people and things around. The city is alive and buzzing about us. We’re offered a moment to sit still together and listen to story teller and long time Blacktown local, Uncle Wes Marne sharing stories and wisdom, both personal and cultural. We’re all right there with him, in every memory.
We watch Gulyangarrira Gumada Ngallawan (The Children’s Spirit Live and Remain), a short film about the return of land, of survival and reclamation of a site only 15 mins from where we sit, where The Parramatta and Blacktown Native Institute once stood.
The audience is then split into smaller groups. Mine was secreted away to the iconic Bow’s Chinese Restaurant for The Nightline, an immersive performance/sound art piece by director Roslyn Oades and sound artist Bob Scott.
Brilliant, bizarre, quirky and a little bit disquieting, voyeurs and eavesdroppers delight in sound bites of locally-sourced late night anonymous musings and confessions. I recommend you take a friend – you might need someone to hold hands with, like the couple at an adjacent table.
A communal dinner follows, where our group is welcomed by Vida, Payam and their daughter for a Persian meal at Dark Blue Restaurant on Main Street. We learn a little about the strangers we sit with and a little about our hosts, before moving on to our final site, where Blacktown Mall becomes an amphitheatre for a moment in time.
Here, percussion group Beat-A-Numeric perform, led by Maharshi Raval. This was fun, but the musician in me wanted to hear more from Maharshi. It’s not everyday you get to hear an internationally acclaimed master tabla player and you want to make the most of those opportunities.
Then Team Trampoline literally ‘pumped up the jam’ for all of us. It was funny, kitsch (in only the best kind of way) and totally infectious.
It wasn’t until the end of the night I learned that some of these sites won’t exist in a year’s time as the city of Blacktown grows, evolves, progresses. This realisation inspires an even deeper consideration of place and of connection to place that RHRN provokes. It’s a reminder that place holds many stories already told and many others yet to be told.
RHRN is a joyful, honest, intriguing, curious, playful and delicious experience all at once. But it’s real delight lies in it’s praise of the ‘common’ – everyday places and people are remembered and hero-ed, and well they should be.