THEATRE BY FRANK MCKONE
Eora Crossing. Legs on the Wall with students from the Eora Centre, directed by Wesley Enoch. Sydney Festival, Museum of Sydney Forecourt, January 20-24, 2004, 9pm.
This free event was a genuine quality community festival display. Held at the site of Sydney's first Government House, the centre of the invading force which removed the Eora people from their home country, Enoch turned the modern city's buildings into images of Sydney Heads as people, spotlighted high on roof tops, observed the strangers arrive.
A smoking ceremony began proceedings. Serious business was in the offing, yet Enoch played the story of the clash of cultures with a lightness of touch emphasised by the aerial acrobatic dance we have come to expect from Legs on the Wall (remember the Opera House, New Year 2000?)
Even direct comedy had its place. An Aboriginal stand-up comedian told us "deadly" jokes, and we laughed. He raised the Aboriginal flag to stick it in the ground, just as Governor Phillip had raised the Union Jack. A volley of shots knocks him back over a high parapet. One sandshoe (a Volley, of course) waves at us cheekily as he disappears.
In spotlit office windows in surrounding real offices, besuited workers are stressed out. They have red hands - Eora blood on their hands. Later they print hand stencils on office windows - just like the red ochre hands in caves across Australia.
A figure in a black Nineteenth Century dress strips to reveal white underclothes, looking like Eliza Fraser. She dances suspended on the wall with an Aboriginal woman. A man in a grey suit pours buckets of water over a ceremonial dancer to remove his white ochre. He tries to put a suit on the Aboriginal man. But an Eora man cannot wear a suit and reverts to his own culture, to cheers and whistles from the crowd.
Finally, a rock climber - with a top rope but really climbing - slowly scales the vertical sandstone wall with Eora carvings projected on it. He links the white people on the lower parapet with the Eora people, appearing ghostlike more than 10 metres higher and more tens of metres above the audience.
Eora Crossing was both spectacular entertainment and a celebration of cultures seeking reconciliation. A Sydney Festival winner.
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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