The award-winning work returns to Melbourne for the first time since Fringe Festival 2018 and will create an important space as it explores themes of Australia’s judicial system and the challenges that face Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
“For me it’s an honour to be able to stage this show again. Not many works, particularly independent works, get more than one season. This is our fourth season in three states, so it’s a really special thing to know how far this work has come,” says Bighouse Dreaming creator Declan Furber Gillick.
Bighouse Dreaming follows Chris “C-War” Wallace, a 15 year old from a troubled regional town, who is balancing school, court family dramas and stints in The Bighouse to try and make it as a rapper.
Combining the rhythm and cultural force of hip hop with theatre, this is a provocative and urgent performance that holds an unflinching lens to the justice system, youth prisons and Australian masculinity – black and white.
“In 2016 I was working at an Aboriginal Legal Aid service in my home town Alice Springs when the ABC Four Corners investigation into Don Dale Youth Detention Centre (Australia’s Shame) aired. I was working with young people and their families in the courts, as well as with adult offenders. I watched the episode and felt a combination of exasperation, anger, fatigue and a kind of gratitude that the episode had gone to air,” says Furber Gillick.
“But I also felt a numb and cynical acceptance of the status quo, which can happen when you live and work in a place of intense cyclical social conflict for a long time; it’s difficult to feel hope or outrage towards things to which you’ve been desensitised. As I watched it and felt numb, I took note of the numbness and I resolved to investigate it.”
“I made a kind of commitment to respond as an artist to these incredibly complex social relations that had led to this moment in our history: a moment in which adolescents were being abused in detention centres by state actors and government agencies.”
“Between 2016 and 2018 I committed to a period of professional training as a dramatic writer and in 2018 I felt I was ready to formulate some of the ideas and the arguments about justice, race, masculinity, state power and violence that had been bouncing around my consciousness for many years.”
Bighouse Dreaming holds a mirror to some glaring issues present in Australia’s systems of law and justice and the themes explored in this performance are important to engage with, not only for justice but for progress.
“I hope this work is seen by anyone interested in justice, law, cross-cultural relations, young people and contemporary Aboriginal Australia. I would love for any young professionals from the social professions – social workers, lawyers, nurses, community development professionals & teachers to engage with this work,” says Furber Gillick.
“And of course, I hope that anyone interested in theatre and storytelling sees this too. In some ways, this is a show that is not intended for some people. It’s a story from within regional Aboriginal consciousness primarily for people who sit outside of that consciousness.”
Bighouse Dreaming and Declan Furber Gillick received a Green Room Award for Best Ensemble and Best Writing and were nominated for Best Production. The work also was the recipient of three 2018 Melbourne Fringe Awards including Best Performance, Melbourne Festival Discovery Award and Best Emerging Indigenous Artist Award.
Writer-performer Declan Furber Gillick is an Arrernte artist with a background in performance poetry and narrative story-telling. He worked as an Aboriginal Legal Support Assistant, inter-cultural Educator and Court Staffer before completing a Masters of Writing for Performance at Victorian College of the Arts 2017. In 2018 his first play The Great Emu War received a staged reading at Melbourne Theatre Company, where he is currently a writer in residence. Bighouse Dreaming was developed with the support of Deadly Fringe, a collaborative initiative between ILBIJERRI and Melbourne Fringe.
Warnings: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and People of Colour are cautioned that this performance contains strong themes relating to state violence against Indigenous people. Bighouse Dreaming contains frequent coarse language and adult themes.