We caught up with Stephen Page, Artistic Director of indigenous dance company Bangarra during the Queensland leg of Bloodland.
Bloodland play was inspired by Page’s time spent in indigenous rural communities, especially in North East Arnhem Land and Page explains that he and Bloodland’s co-creator actor and writer Wayne Blair, “didn’t want to write a conventional play. It was really just looking at particular social issues.”
Bloodland weaves dance and acting (in the Yolngu language of Arnhem Land) into an evocative series of vignettes of contemporary stories and frustrations of two Yolngu families. Page admits the use of the Yolngu language was “quite challenging for all but it just gave [Bloodland] a different type of energy and spirit I suppose, and depth to the work.”
Page doesn’t pull any punches about the subject matter in Bloodland. “It’s a bleak work, it’s dealing with current social issues. It’s not celebratory, it’s not like you walk out laughing. It’s not a typical play like that. It’s confronting”. However, Page hopes the audience will take away an understanding of indigenous culture beyond the issues presented. “What’s great about [Bloodland] is there’s a black perspective and it’s raw it’s honest. And I think it awakens a black consciousness, whatever that may be, a sense of feeling and spirit. I think that’s the energy the audience walk away with.”
We ask Page what he thinks could be done to bring indigenous stories to the cultural foreground in Australia and internationally?
“I just think it’s ok to have confronting stories. I think it’s great to set up resources so that various black directors and black playwrights and black actors have foundations like QTC, like Bangarra, where they can practice their story telling”
“I just think it’s ok to have confronting stories. I think it’s great to set up resources so that various black directors and black playwrights and black actors have foundations like QTC, like Bangarra, where they can practice their story telling…It’s great that there’s an evolution of great black prospective talent out there and I think it’s really about supporting that… There’s probably a desperate need to have a full-time black theatre company.”
Bloodland recently played a season at the Optus Playhouse, QPAC (Brisbane)