At the start of the year, we invited a few Western Sydney residents to join UTP for a regular date to a cultural event. We have chosen five experiences for the group to attend throughout the year. We organise the ticket and transport and in return the reviewers will write a short review of their personal experience.
The first experience our 2200 Reviewers attended was our very own 2018 premiere of BLAK BOX. “BLAK BOX at Barangaroo Reserve in Sydney offered audiences a chance to embrace the First People’s concept of ‘Deep Listening’ in a purposely designed, state-of-the-art, surround-sound, place-based listening space.”
For the second experience our reviewers are attending The Almighty Sometimes presented by Griffin Theatre. The Almighty Sometimes by Kendall Feaver is “An extraordinary work about mental health and the medication of children.”
What did our reviewers think of BLAK BOX?
“I went away feeling as though a portal had been opened, to the time of Barangaroo and Patyegarang, giving those women a voice and honouring their memory.” Frances
“Blak Box was a surprise and unexpectedly satisfying drawing me into myself and leaving me with the image of the translucent light house in the midst of a wintery Sydney night” Joseph
Read the full reviews further down!
Blak box is described as a ‘deep listening’ theatre piece inviting those present to enter a period of Australia’s early history and co-exist with its first people. Blak box is a predominantly auditory experience housed in a dimly lit cube-like enclosure. The ‘audience’ is placed in a circle and exposed to the sounds of the harbour in the context of an imagined history of Barangaroo. This is also accompanied by various contemporary indigenous voices creating a sense of ambiguous time.
What stood out for me was the intimacy of the piece and how it invited the audience to partake in the generation of memory. This was done by using an almost circular seating arrangement where those present were more directly sharing the space with the shows acoustics as well as each other. The line between the audience and the piece was blurred. This made the journey not just about the past indigenous population but also about how the present audience might be part of this reclamation. This was further aided by the subtle lighting, which added a meditative quality imbuing the piece with introspection and reinforcing the non-narrative nature of the piece. This served to suspend time and place the events in a nebulous realm which perhaps brings the audience closer to the spirit and ethereal nature of Blak Box.
I liked the fact that the piece was experiential rather than being didactic as it seemed to work on a more subliminal level. This aspect of experience, I sense, creates a greater possibility of connecting to one another. If we, as a society want to build bridges between the past and the present and aboriginal and European culture, which seem so diametrically opposite to one another, then perhaps theatre can provide a conducive space for that.
This leads me to reflect upon aboriginal culture, which didn’t leave physical landmarks such as buildings and other monuments to the extent that European civilisation did. One legacy of the ‘dreaming’ is this predominantly non-physical way of experiencing and interacting with the world through our consciousness. This finds its western equivalent in the more spiritual expressions of religious traditions. In this sense, Blak Box captures the intentions of the curator and director’s aims by asking us to listen deeply for the universal humanity that is a claim of no one and a right of all.
As a long-time meditator, I felt most connected to the meditative nature of the piece for all the reasons mentioned above. It didn’t remind me of anything I’ve seen, but as an irregular theatre goer, that’s to be expected. I must admit that I was a little tired and the subtler aspects of the content were probably not fully appreciated. Nonetheless, Blak Box was a surprise and unexpectedly satisfying drawing me into myself and leaving me with the image of the translucent light house in the midst of a wintery Sydney night.
Walking around Barrangaroo Reserve when it was first opened a couple of years ago, the design of the area reminded me of one of the giant ancient temples I had visited on my travels, and it sent my mind wondering about the memories and stories that might be entombed at this newly re-planted site. So, it was with an open mind but also with some anticipation that I went along to the Blak Box performance – and I wasn’t disappointed.
The other-worldly glow of the performance space perched on top of the ‘Stargazers’ Lawn’ reminded me of an ancient fire-lit temple. The dimly lit interior and recordings of crackling fire, splashing water, wind, and other natural sounds, transported me to a space in my mind where I could be completely immersed in the place and the stories that were being re-told, or re-imagined, about the people who had once walked on that site.
I went away feeling as though a portal had been opened, to the time of Barangaroo and Patyegarang, giving those women a voice and honouring their memory. Later I reflected on how those resurrected voices relate to the recent upsurge of story-sharing in the contemporary women’s movement. In this way, I felt that Blak Box Humechochorus was as much a story for our times, and our common humanity, as it was a reflection and honouring of those particular historical figures.