Review: Cut The Sky – Marrugeku (Sydney Festival)
January 25th 2016
Photo credit: Jon Green
Directed by Rachael Swain, ‘Cut The Sky’ describes itself as a “meditation on humanity’s frailty in the face of our own actions.” A cast of 7-8 dancers is accompanied by the live vocals of Sydney soul singer Ngaiire and a bed of sound ranging from the music of Nick Cave to Eric Avery.
The work comes together in five acts (Disaster, Deeply Cut Wounds, The Sun, History Repeats, Dreaming The Future), working through distinct ideas & places in a sense of narrative progression that slowly builds on a sparse stage riffing on the poetry of Edwin Lee Mulligan. Moments of solo storytelling are swept up by ensemble dance pieces that build against motifs of native animals, destructive industry and deep history.
Visually, the stage is a clean slate, bar a couple of oil drums which establish a relatively bleak setting for the work. Enormous rear projections set the Kimberly as our backdrop – and incredibly strong lighting design fill the blanks in setting and are key to the pace of the show. Director Rachel Swain’s program notes reference this as the setting to deliver a message that “fulfilling our responsibility to keep the balance is delicate, but from an Aboriginal perspective there are people in our culture who still hold the knowledge and power to ‘sing the rain’ or ‘cut the sky’.”
The soundtrack mirrors the raw Australian backdrop upon which this is set. The music of Nick Cave sits as a sparse and melancholy reminder of the narrative playing out. Ngaiire’s vocals are a perfect live addition – she’s integral to the show, and whilst familiar to us through her solo work or collaborations with Blue King Brown, Thundamentals and The Tongue, she excels in this setting on a more dramatic stage with even more musical focus and storytelling.
‘Cut The Sky’ is precisely the kind of original work Sydney Festival should be championing. A dance work from Broome that brings distinctly Australian voices to life in our most iconic building; with a young and mostly Indigenous cast commenting on a delicate tension and balance between our culture, nature, industry and progress.
– Harry White