Theatre review: Hart, Basement Studio

By Janet McAllister

Stories of the Stolen Generation played out in dignified manner by survivor’s son.

Australia's appalling human rights record is in the limelight at the moment, thanks in part to the referring of Australia Day as "Invasion Day", and protests about the locking up of refugees (including children) and New Zealand criminals in offshore detention centres.

Google's Australia Day homepage "doodle" this year even recognised the trauma of the Stolen Generations - indigenous Australian children who were forcibly removed from their families and placed in foster homes or institutions.

So the time seems ripe for Hart, a one-man play which does a great job of personalising mass confusion and heartbreak by presenting fragments of the stories of three Stolen Generation survivors, in their own words. These are small-scale individual histories situated within a large political maelstrom - the show starts with voiceover snippets of real speeches, by turns bigoted, activist and apologetic.

That one of the featured survivors is performer Ian Michael's own father makes the show even more immediate, and Michael also presents an exploration of his own cultural identity: sometimes he wished, he says, to scrub off the black of his skin.

Matter-of-factly, he states that the inter-generational trauma has continued and will continue: it will affect his own children, and his children's children.

In spite of the profound distress being discussed, Michael doesn't load his delivery of simple, spare words with misplaced histrionics.

The men he channels could have been more clearly differentiated perhaps, but he is reserved, quiet and dignified; there is no cheap conjuring up of deep-seated emotion for glib edification of an outside audience.

Directed by Penny Harpham and co-written by Seanna van Helten, the monologues are nicely punctuated with broader historic film and photo montages - including lines of Aboriginal men shackled by the neck - as well as by gestures which may refer to Michael's Noongar traditions: he wipes his arms with the white dust which lies in a circle around him on the ground. Startling images and a starting place for discussion. Catharsis would be misplaced as the trouble is ongoing.

Theatre review

What: Hart
Where: Basement Studio, until Saturday.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf02 at 06 Dec 2016 00:51:53 Processing Time: 497ms