Big World, Up Close at Arts Centre Melbourne

ACM Modern Maori Quartet - photo by Josh Griggs PhotographyOver the past two years, Arts Centre Melbourne’s Theatre & Contemporary Performance series Big World, Up Close has gripped audiences with powerhouse performances showcasing some of the most compelling new works from across the globe.

This year, from 10 July until 1 September, Big World, Up Close has expanded its offering with six major works championing First Nations artists from New Zealand, Canada and Australia, as well as those representing Cambodian, Malaysian-Australian and African diasporas.

“Big World, Up Close is a curated program of six works that focus on artists, cultural perspectives, stories and experiences that are under represented on our main stages,” says Arts Centre Melbourne Director of Programming Edwina Lunn. “It is a rare opportunity to see some of the most compelling contemporary performance works from around the globe over three months at Arts Centre Melbourne.”

The highly acclaimed series unveils vital voices in contemporary performance and is now more urgent than ever. Woven from raw emotion and unapologetic in their honesty, each story speaks across the fault lines between ancestry and contemporary existence.

By empowering these fierce storytellers to reclaim and reframe our view of the world today, their profound and personal stories will challenge audiences. These stories know no limits.

This year’s works include: Between Tiny Cities (Cambodian, Australian), Two Worlds by Modern Maori Quartet (Tangata Whenua of Aotearoa, New Zealand), One the Bear (Australian, African Diaspora), Since Ali Died (Malaysian-Australian), Blood on the Dance Floor (Narangga and Kaurna, First Nations Australian) and Deer Woman (Blackfoot).

From a tale of a Blackfoot warrior woman seeking vengeance, to rap-poetry on the dark realities of growing up as a brown-skinned Muslim boy in suburban Australia, and the crooning harmonies of a vocal quartet exploring M?ori manhood; it’s a fearless new world in the making.

Tapping explosive energies, Cambodian and Australian B-boys will thrill with their lightning-speed footwork, and First Nations Australian dancer diagnosed with HIV will take you on a deeply personal journey in search of his ancestors, while two best friends get up to mischief in a neon-saturated tale of hip hop activism; this is more than just a series. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Modern Maori Quartet – photo by Josh Griggs Photography

Big World, Up Close 2019 Series:

Between Tiny Cities (10 – 13 July)
In this dance work, dancers Erak Mith, from Phnom Penh, and Aaron Lim, from Darwin, use the rituals, movement styles and language of their shared hip-hop culture to reveal the dramatically different worlds that surround them and uncover the choreographic links that unite them. It represents the cultural exchange between Australian and Cambodian artists. This is an immersive experience, with the performers up close, as the audience forms a circle to witness the playful and exploratory intensity of physical storytelling. The work blends the raw energy of b*boy battles with skillful improvisation and choreography, offering a cross-cultural perspective on style, community and locality.

Two Worlds by Modern Maori Quartet (10 – 14 July) Two Worlds brings about a timely return to Modern Maori Quartet’s theatrical beginnings with a story full of heart and revelation. With signature style and humour, Two Worlds weaves together four stories that unfold the fabric of Maori musical culture and its genealogy and evolution. Layering a uniquely Kiwi narrative to their soaring harmonies and classic quirky charm, the award-winning Modern Maori Quartet invite you to meet Koro, Big Bro, Uncle and Bub, and experience their take on what it really means to be Maori in this day and age.

One the Bear (8 – 10 August)
This rainbow-hued fairytale for the hip-hop generation seeks to decolonise the theatre space by speaking out about various experiences, stories and gender identity. It is a game changing production for young audiences pushing the boundaries of form, style and content created by real-life sisters Candy Bowers and Kim Busty Beatz Bowers. Written wholly in rhyme with infectious beats, neon projections and powerful performances, audiences can enter a stunning dystopic world that has gone wild with celebrity. It is guaranteed to burst your senses and expand your mind.

Since Ali Died (13 – 17 August)
Rapper, poet and award-winning author Omar Musa brings his electrifying one-man show of politically-charged and deeply personal storytelling, rap and song, inspired by the passing of his personal hero, boxing legend Muhammad Ali. At the core, Musa draws on Ali’s legacy and spins them into stories of his own life, which hasn’t been the same since Ali died. Using this sentiment as a lyrical springboard, Musa surrenders to the freedom of poetry, story and song by shining a light on diverse cultural perspectives confronting everything from suburban violence, to lost love, to his Malaysian heritage and the dark realities of growing up as a brown-skinned Muslim boy in Queanbeyan.

Blood on the Dance Floor (20 – 21 August)
Choreographer, dancer and writer Jacob Boehme’s deeply personal, autobiographical work explores the legacies and memories of bloodlines, the need for community, and what blood means to each of us – questioning how this most precious fluid unites and divides us. Having been diagnosed with HIV in 1998, Boehme went searching for answers. Being a descendant of the Narangga and Kaurna nations of South Australia, he reached out to his ancestors. Through a powerful blend of storytelling, projection and movement, Boehme pays homage to their ceremonies whilst dissecting the politics of gay, Blak and poz identities.

Deer Woman (28 Aug – 1 Sept)
Written by Tara Beagan, directed Andy Moro and performed by actor and activist Cherish Violet Blood, Deer Woman tells the story of a young, missing and murdered girl in a country where over 1,600 Indigenous women and girls are officially recognised as being missing or murdered. Lila, one missing girl’s big sister, refuses to stand idly by. She is the daughter of a hunter who taught her all he knew. She’s ex-army, too. When circumstances converge, Lila finds the perfect opportunity to avenge her baby sister’s murder while exercising the skills taught by the Canadian government.