Theatre R&R: HART

In a world where we can often feel swamped by a persistent glut of information, it seems more important than ever for storytellers like She Said Theatre to have a space and a place, where voices can rise above the humming bubbles of ‘noise’ that surround and sate our senses.

Some argue that we have moved into an era of wholesale desensitisation, where human suffering in this ‘new normal’ has become so everyday and par for the course that every injustice or trauma we swipe across our smartphones is met with disbelief, outrage, tears, demand for change and getting on with our lives in quick and rapid succession.

The soundbites of politicians, the media spin, our grief and resilience; they all swirl together in the every day, sometimes (and often) sweeping the truth away, silencing stories.

“Between the years 1910–1970, an unknown number of indigenous Australian children were forcibly removed from their families. Parents driven mad, grandparents heartbroken, siblings torn apart, language lost, and culture stripped away.”

HART gracefully pierces through the humming data bubbles we can find ourselves in to tell the harrowing stories of four Noongar men from Western Australia: Sam Dinah, Paul Parfitt , Hart and performer Ian Michael.

Using their own words and testimonies, as victims and survivors of indigenous Australia’s Stolen Generations, HART invites us to smell the sheep shearing sheds of the 1930s, listen to Michael Jackson’s ‘Ben’ and remember or imagine a new dawn of hope in the 1980s.

Curated by Gabi Briggs, projected photographs from private and public history mix with the beautiful, haunting sounds designed by Raya Slavin (including Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu’s ‘Amazing Grace’ which is just beautiful) creating a dynamic backdrop that extols us to sit down and hear the stories Michael tells, to listen to the child who only wants to be by his dad’s side, sticking to him like a magnet, or to the man who is being punished and has to kneel on rocks.

In less than an hour, HART certainly packs a punch. I found it disturbing and upsetting, but also intensely warm and funny, I am sure because of Michael’s openness.

She Said Theatre has created a very personal, shared experience and in its tour of New Zealand I hope it engages us to have more open conversations about the effects of colonisation on indigenous cultures. I don’t think we’ve become desensitised at all, not all of us.

HART is at the Basement Theatre from 2–6 February, and at BATS Theatre in Wellington from 20–24 February.

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