The Migration Project

The Migration ProjectAJZ Productions in association with The Migration Museum, Charles Sturt Council and Come Out Festival at the Drill Hall. Torrens Parade Ground. 22 May 2013

Who would have thought it was so difficult to find a parking spot near the Parade Grounds on a dark and dreary Wednesday night? Then waiting outside the venue in the cold and roughly being told to stand in line by an officious security officer (aka front of house staff) whilst filling out an arrival card to get into Australia, all before being directed by even more officious security guards into long lines inside a cavernous hall. This process is designed to fray the nerves, and exactly planned this way (except for the car parking incident) by Alirio Zavarce, the showʼs creator, writer, director, and one of the main performers.

The Migration Project is a vast collaborative theatrical project between Zavarce and his team; students of William Light R – 12 School, Woodville High School, The Migration Museum, eleven young on stage performers and fifty-six workshop participants in, as Zavarce notes, an experiment, an experience, more than a play.

The Torrens Parade Ground Drill Hall is an ideal location for this multi-layered cross between a lecturer, a discussion, a geographical journey, videoed interviews, large screen image projection and moving personal stories from young refugees, asylum seekers, and migrant youth. They put together a sort of quilt of experiences of coming to Australia, learning to be Australian, and keeping the love of lost homelands alive.

By the time we arrived in the main seating area, we have already been subjected to a theatrical representation of what it must feel like to have travelled so far to get what many of us take for granted. We have been split up from the people that we came with and forced to chat with small circles of people who we didn’t know, then told where to sit for the main event.

The audience handled this performance prelude with surprising good grace. I know I was almost tempted to rebel, but I wanted to see the show too much (a neat staging metaphor for coming to Australia).

The main set for The Migration Project is sparse, with suitcases the dominant element, and as one of the performers says: ‘You canʼt pack a river or a landscape into a suitcase’.

If I have a negative comment it would be that seating such a large audience on the flat over such a distance presented some sight line issues that were not addressed fully. But countering this was the fine large screen interviews, the use of hand held mics, the dominance of amplified vocals, and the fact that this show is driven by the spoken word not the physicality of the performers.

A lot of evocative images and provocative migration detail is squeezed into the sixty minute main stage performance and with Zavarceʼs strong guiding narration supporting the young performers, at times didactic presentation style, the audience becomes caught up in the stories themselves rather than any devised character performance work. These are real young people telling their own real stories; for that alone The Migration Project needs to be applauded.

At a deeper level, this adventurous and fresh production asks the question: What makes you Australian? No one answer is thrown up by the performers in this deftly handled production.

Martin Christmas

When: Torrens Parade Ground, 25th May
Woodville Town Hall 29th May, 1st and 2nd June
Where: Torrens Parade Ground and Woodville Town Hall

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