In the heart of Fairfield’s CBD there is a hive of activity around the heritage listed School of Arts Building. This building was purpose built in 1994 and underwent refurbishments between 2003 and 2006. Facility improvements responded to the community’s demand for increased access to creative development and exhibition opportunities. In 2015 the Powerhouse Youth Theatre, who occupy the building, presented a dynamic multi-arts program that critically engaged with the plurality of personal histories in Fairfield.
Jump First, Ask Later: Parkour from the streets of Fairfield was a captivating, high energy performance from start to finish. Premiering in August 2015, the performance was produced by Force Majeure and Powerhouse Youth Theatre, with contributions from artist in residence, Byron Perry.
The performance mapped the personal histories of six members of the Dauntless Movement Crew (DMC), previously known as Team9Lives. Both names strongly resonate with the physicality, skill and determination necessary for parkour. Jump First, Ask Later demonstrated what it truly means to physically and mentally overcome any obstacle. With a balance between movement and monologue, the six protagonists (Joseph Carbone, Justin Kilic, Jimmy James Pham, Johnny Do, Natalie Siri and Patrick Uy) took the audience on an adventure as they scaled the walls, flipped and navigated scaffolding with extreme gymnastics.
What commenced as a group of friends training in the streets of Fairfield has evolved into a world class act. As ticket holders to the matinee session left, other members of the DMC could be seen training on a vacant lot adjacent to the School of Arts building, a firm reminder that the suburbs are a hive of creative activity.
If ever there was a doubt that younger generations were leading the way in producing meaningful and critical theatre, TEAM AUSTRALIA: Stories from Fairfield would put them to rest. This performance was written and performed by the PYT Ensemble and was developed over eighteen months as a part of PYT’s professional development program.
TEAM AUSTRALIA provides an intimate insight into the lives of six young Australians living in Fairfield. It unforgivingly pokes political issues, challenging the exclusivity of being on “the team” and questioning the values which construct the political rhetoric presented by ex-Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.
Playing on team behaviour, the audience entered the theatre which had been converted into a locker room. Front and centre in green and gold tracksuits, performers Luke Cignarella, Monica Kumar, Mahdi, David Leonardo Roberts, Barbara Schefer and Amanda Sullo, stood in a ‘V’ formation, staring determinedly at the back of the room. The performance shifted between monologues of personal experiences and discussions of some of the most prevalent inequality issues facing society including race, religion, migration and white privilege.
Two powerful moments lingered after the conclusion of the performance. The first was when the team formed a line to partake in kinetic stretching. As the movements progressed they gradually moved out of time, a gesture towards the plurality of identities which make up Australia. But nothing came near the moment that Barbara sat concealed by a burqa to play the electric guitar.
Capping off PYT’s program for 2015 TEAM AUSTRALIA reiterated that our nation’s strength lies in its diversity. Whilst political rhetoric may struggle to provide leadership on this reality and mainstream media continues to falter, there are at least twelve young cultural leaders in Fairfield ready to directly address the most prevalent issues facing society.
Powerhouse Youth Theatre has established a meaningful presence in Fairfield and cemented its importance in Australia’s art and cultural scene. I look forward to the announcement of their 2016 program.
Photographs by Alex Wisser
* Tickets for the 2016 season of Jump First, Ask Later at the Sydney Opera House are now on sale. Contact the box office for more details.