May is a month for troublemakers, with four shows that refuse to play by the rules. We’re excited to welcome Vicki Van Hout, Joel Bray, Applespiel and Javaad Alipoor to Arts House as part of YIRRAMBOI Festival and new partner, Melbourne Knowledge Week.
With First Nations arts festival YIRRAMBOI, Arts House brings two deadly shows from artists at pointedly different moments in their careers. plenty serious TALK TALK is the darkly irreverent dissection of Indigenous art making by veteran choreographer Vicki Van Hout, while emerging dancemaker Joel Bray confirms his must-follow status with the all-you-can-eat dance confessional Daddy. Both play with expectation – in Van Hout’s case, we find a choreographer playing comic, storyteller, lecturer and raconteur, all to unpick the knotty fabric that blankets our understanding of Indigenous art. It takes an artist supremely confident in her abilities to take such serious subject matter and spin something as bitingly funny as she has.
And it takes someone with a fresh perspective to come up with Daddy. Those at the forefront of Australian dance practice have already pegged Joel Bray as one to watch, but with Daddy he announces himself as a major talent willing to go where others fear to tread. A sugar-crusted confection with a rich dark heart, it fuses dance, confessional, interactive installation and more to explore hunger and disappointment, desire and despair.
In a new partnership with Melbourne Knowledge Week, Arts House introduces fresh dangers to our building. Applespiel’s Return to Escape from Woomera resurrects the notorious Australian video game that put players in the shoes of an asylum seeker fleeing detention, and iconoclastic UK theatremaker Javaad Alipoor leads audiences into a dizzying electronic labyrinth of online extremism with the internationally acclaimed The Believers are but Brothers.
Escape from Woomera was the 2003 video game that made headlines and caused a media uproar. This Australia Council funded game gave players control of a refugee attempting to escape detention, but 16 years later the themes that sparked the work have grown into an international conflagration. Sydney art collective Applespiel present a live, participatory play of the game as the backdrop for a public conversation by thinkers, artists, human rights advocates and refugees. Return to Escape from Woomera asks: what is Australia really trying to flee?
UK writer, director and performer Javaad Alipoor closes out the month with a tour-de-force tale of digital storytelling. The Believers are but Brothers follows Alipoor’s exploration of online extremism, from the alt-right to ISIS, unearthing the ways in which extremism weaponises social media, memes and online culture with terrifying real world results. Immersing audiences in a media storm as powerful as the show’s subject matter, this is art that isn’t quickly forgotten.
Image: Daddy by Joel Bray; photo by James Henry