Kodie Bedford on storytelling in performance
November 16th 2020
Pictured: Kodie Bedford on Country in Halls Creek, Western Australia
During NAIDOC Week, Backchat chatted with Jaru playwright Kodie Bedford about incorporating family, grief and comedy into her work.
For Kodie Bedford, a Jaru woman from East Kimberly, stories are at the heart of who she is. Kodie was born and raised in Western Australia at the edge of the desert and was surrounded by stories. Kodie has written for TV and has now written a play, Cursed! which is currently being performed at Belvoir St Theatre.
What does storytelling mean to you?
Storytelling from a cultural point of view is very important. It is what has sustained our culture, language and art for millennia. But also in the general sense of Australia, it forms our identity of who we are and what we go through as a people.
How has your culture influenced and shaped you as a storyteller?
I’ve always grown up around people just telling yarns. It’s just something I have always known and I’ve always relied on. I guess the number one rule is to write what you know. I’ve always known myself to be an Aboriginal woman from regional Western Australia. These influences, particularly for this play, have really come into fruition.
Blackfellas use comedy a lot to get through dark times and that’s something I really leaned into. Really laughing at the dark humour I guess you’d call it! I know a lot of people aren’t comfortable with that but it’s a survival mechanism that I feel that our people as a whole have used and leaned into for generations. I am one of many story tellers that have used that.
Tell us about your new play Cursed!
Cursed! is centred around a multicultural family because that’s what I grew up in. I wanted to really normalise what an Australian family was.
It’s sort of exploring the elevated grief of what happens when our matriarch dies in the family. I went through this experience a few years ago where I got the call that my Nan was on her deathbed and all of us kids, cousins, had to fly back to be with her. It sort of gave me a seed of an idea. My family kind of elevated their stress, lots of little things would set them off and I thought it was a really funny thing to explore.
I wanted to really explore mental illness and wanted to put a family on stage that was from a low socio-economic class. As that’s what I grew up in and I don’t really see that in Australian media.
Would you consider your work to be that of a modern storyteller?
The thing about culture is that it’s not stagnant and is forever changing and evolving. So I feel like I am the next cog in the wheel really. You look at just a generation ago at what filmmakers were doing, particularly Indigenous filmmakers. A lot of films were being made about our past, our trauma.
Because these stories have already been told, we can as a new generation tell stories from a different genre and just play with outlandish space ideas, like sci-fi and comedy. We’ve already been grounded in what those past storytellers have done. For me, I am very firm in my identity and where I come from and I respect the traditions. But also I totally think that culture is evolving and this is just the next step of the process.
What does NAIDOC week mean to you?
From my earliest memory, I’ve always remembered celebrating NAIDOC week. I really enjoy NAIDOC week just because it is a celebration of the achievements of Indigenous people from around Australia. I love hearing those stories because they inspire me. NAIDOC is great to reflect on that.
This NAIDOC has been different for me. As we’ve been kind of mentally exhausted from the year, from the Black Lives Matter movement, the continuous fighting. It feels a bit numbing this year. But if I tap into those community stories then I’m sure that I’ll be really inspired.
It is an important part of the year and I hope we continue on with those celebrations rather than just continue to fight for justice and equality.