By Eugenia Flynn
- A review of RISE Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainee’s latest presentation, ReDefiant’s HiRISE
Last week I went to the only thing I had time to view at the Melbourne Fringe this year – the encore performance of HiRISe, an ensemble performance work devised and performed by ReDefiant. Having performed two sold out shows at Club Voltaire as part of the Melbourne Fringe, I jumped at the chance to attend this special encore performance by the theatre/mixed-media/live-art collective that is “creatively affiliated” with the Melbourne-based non-profit organisation RISE: Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees.
Knowing RISE fairly well and being involved in their previous Arts work, it was a pleasure to be entirely disengaged from the work leading up to the show and then being able to enjoy the show like a regular punter. I arrived early with a friend (I hope I can call you that!) who struggled with the steep flight of stairs one had to climb to gain access to the space. Set in a small cramped venue, up a flight of stairs, with no disabled access, audiences should have been made aware of the access issues from the get go – there was at least one audience member who had to forfeit his ticket on the night I viewed the performance because he was unable to climb the stairs.
Moving on from a shaky front-of-house start, the actual performance itself was a solid one, although a bit slow to start. Entering the space audience members were greeted by performer Shinen on guitar, making the space warm, inviting and ambient – I love when this is part of a performance work!
With an ensemble cast that performed solo and then coming together at times throughout the performance, Azja was an odd choice to begin with; her piece being over-long and under-acted. The script itself, that Azja chose to read from was very solid however, and the use of old Eastern European news reels projected behind her was clever and added to the performance – this may have been better in the middle of the show. Commendable performances were from Tania who was bewitching and enchanting on stage – a real stand out! – and Sarahnya whose solo piece was striking and powerful despite the serious detraction of her body movement – what was (I think) meant to look like frustration and defeat looked sloppy and slack. If Sarahnya works on body movement and posture, she is sure to become a very powerful performer in the future.
Overall, what could have been contrived and twee, as can be typical in community theatre that wants to ‘make a point’, was more subtle, clever and nuanced. HiRise’s points about how non-Whites are approached in public in Australia were made in a way that was clever, funny, well-constructed, well-acted and relevant, despite involving the dreaded audience-participation technique. I thoroughly enjoyed the cheeky word play that comprised much of the ensemble cast’s combined work and enjoyed the simple set; projection screen forming the backdrop, milk crates forming moveable and stackable high-rise buildings and chairs and tables at other times.
I look forward to seeing more work from ReDefiant in the future as they grow from strength to strength and if you missed out on their short season this time around – keep an eye out for future performances!
Devised and performed by ReDefiant; members: Azja, Loretta, Sarahnya, Shinen and Tania. HiRISE was presented at Club Voltaire as part of the Melbourne Fringe on 19th, 26th September and 4th October 2013.