Stephen Page’s incredibly moving and powerful new work for Bangarra Dance Theatre, Bennelong is currently playing to full houses in its world premiere at Sydney Opera House before touring to Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne.
Page’s 24th work for Bangarra, it is his first full-length work since 2014’s acclaimed Patyegarang. In an abstracted narrative, told through the company’s transformative dance theatre language, Page will unravel Bennelong’s story. The work explores the life of this infamous man – the namesake of Bennelong Point whose legacy has influenced the past, present and future of Australia’s history and people.
Woollarawarre Bennelong was a senior man of the Eora, from the Port Jackson area in Sydney. He is one of the most mythologised and celebrated individuals from the days of First Contact. He was one of the first Aboriginal men to be taken from his people and introduced to European ways.
Bennelong was also one of the first Aboriginal people to have their life story recorded and documented through the early diaries of the British military, even travelling to London as a guest of Governor Arthur Phillip who ordered his initial capture. With extraordinary curiosity, courage and diplomacy, he led his community to survive a clash of cultures, and left a legacy that reverberates through contemporary life.
Page explains there’s an urgency in telling Bennelong’s story in a contemporary context. “Bennelong is in all of us, as we navigate the ancient and the contemporary elements of our lives. The question of how we move forward whilst still being connected to our culture and heritage has inspired much of my life’s work,” says Page.
“More than two centuries after his death, telling his extraordinary story and sharing his journey is a powerful reminder that there is a still a long way for us to go before we can say we’re at a place of true equality.”
Collaborating with the 18-strong dance ensemble on choreography, Page has created a work that reverberates with Bangarra’s signature authenticity and spirit. Supported by a extraordinary creative team comprised of set designer Jake Nash, costume designer Jennifer Irwin, lighting designer Nick Schlieper, composer Steve Francis, and dramaturg Alana Valentine, Bennelong unpacks the post-colonial chapters of Australia’s story to reveal the deeply resonant struggle of a man trying to bridge two worlds.
“Bangarra fires on all cylinders in seminal tale of first contact… Dauntingly iconic, profoundly sad, Bennelong is beautifully realised.” – Limelight Magazine
Drama Theatre – Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point
Season continues to 29 July 2017
Information and Bookings: www.sydneyoperahouse.com
Canberra Theatre Centre, London Circuit, Canberra
Season: 3 – 5 August 2017
Information and Bookings: www.canberratheatrecentre.com.au
Playhouse – QPAC, corner Grey and Melbourne Streets, South Bank (Brisbane)
Season: 25 August – 2 September 2017
Information and Bookings: www.qpac.com.au
Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 7 – 16 September 2017
Information and Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au
For more information, visit: www.bangarra.com.au for details.
Image: Bennelong – photo by Daniel Boud