Sydney Festival Review: Cut the Sky

Cut the Sky  Photo: Prudence Upton

Cut the Sky        Photo: Prudence Upton

Marrugeku’s Cut the Sky is a thought-provoking work that challenges the human race to change its attitude to the Earth before it’s too late.

This major new work from Broome’s internationally acclaimed dance-theatre company Marrugeku is an impassioned plea to regard the land as the Aboriginal people do: to feel the connection to country rather than regard it as something to plunder, a commodity there for the taking.

Nature is on speed careering to destruction and the question is posed: humans lack the capacity to self-correct but do we care enough to change? Can we stop being a fossil burning carbon hungry species?

Cut the Sky, five songs for the future is a warning to act before it's too late  Photo: Prudence Upton

Cut the Sky is a warning to act before it’s too late             Photo: Prudence Upton

The enormity of the challenge faced is brought home when a Minister is quoted berating the Aboriginal community for locking the gate against drilling while insisting, “We are your friends”. His message is that we need fossil fuels, reminiscent of Tony Abbott’s argument that “coal is good”.

The show is a creative fusion of poetry, dance, songs and video projections that together explore our relationship to Country – past, present and future – and look at this relationship through an Aboriginal lens. All the elements work together seamlessly to support the narrative.

Cut the Sky – five songs for the future, moves from Disaster, to Deeply Cut Wounds, The Sun, History Repeats and Dreaming the Future with Damien Cooper’s lighting setting the mood for each, from dark and ominous landscapes to glowing sun and the colours of the desert.

The work opens in the middle of a huge cyclone with people blown jerkily across the stage while bemoaning the continuing drought and pleading for rain.

Stephen Curtis’ set is bare except for a mining rig; all else is plastic. The dancers are clad in plastic ‘raincoats’ as they race around in the storm with the devastating destruction screened on the back wall accompanied by a cast member giving a beautiful rendition of Nick Cave’s “The Weeping Song”. The scenes are reminiscent of Darwin’s Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day 1974, as a city reduced to rubble dominates the stage.

The poetry of Edwin Lee Mulligan is the central thread in Cut the Sky  Photo: Prudence Upton

The poetry of Edwin Lee Mulligan is the central thread in Cut the Sky     Photo: Prudence Upton

The threat to nature and wildlife is evoked as a dancer, representing a kangaroo, staggers across the stage to a drumbeat that sounds like a faltering heartbeat, with smoke and discordant music. The audience is also treated to Dreamtime stories such as how the crocodile was a human heart that became hard, and the harder it became the more its flesh hardened.

The work ends with a dramatic wall of water on stage as the heavens open and respond to the violinist who sings the country and pleads “open the gateway, open the cracks, let it speak, bring back the rain.”

Presented by Sydney Festival and Sydney Opera House Cut The Sky is a collaborative creation from Dalisa Pigram and Rachel Swain, who also directs.

It features the poetry and music of Edwin Lee Mulligan, Eric Avery, Buffalo Springfield, Nick Cave and soul singer Ngaiire , with musical director Matthew Fargher putting together a powerful score that includes Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “Rain Song” and “Dreaming the Future” by Ngaire, and Eric Avery’s “Rain Song” sung in Ngiyampaa Wangaaypuwan language.

The dancing, under choreographers Dalisa Pigram and Serge Aimé Couliba, in perfect harmony with the poetry and the theme is at times jerky and discordant and at others beautifully graceful.

Broome has long been an Aboriginal cultural centre giving Australia Bran Nue Dae, the Pigram Brothers and the fabulous band Scrap Metal. The WA town has done it again. This is a show worth seeing both for its artistry and for the issue it tackles.

Cut the Sky is at the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, until January 17. Captioned performance on January 16 at 7.30pm. Bookings essential.




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