Reviewed by: anonymous (peer review)

As the house lights dim and the audience begins to quieten, the anticipation begins to mount. We are left in this limbo state just long enough to wonder if something has gone wrong, when suddenly we are in complete darkness and the space is filled to the brim with sound. This “music” that begins BRED is intense. The crackling sounds are uncomfortable, lending themselves to bizarre entrance of our first performer, Wiradjuri choreographer and dancer Vicki Van Hout. Clad only in a checkered, zip-up storage bag, you know the one I’m talking about, she is stooped and muttering as she shuffles into the space. Whilst her opening monologue is a little hard to make out at first, she holds the collective focus so intensely that you barely notice the arrival of her fellow castmates to the stage. Standing contorted, bare legs sticking out of their matching storage bag attire they are connected by a piece of red string on the ground that Vicki is diligently winding up. You begin to get the sense as an audience member that this show is not meant to be ‘understood’, it isn’t linear, it isn’t giving you a ‘story’. The jaggered interjections of the opening monologue demand you to fill in the blanks of the narrative for yourself, but the emotional landscape provided is palpable.

Suddenly you’re catapulted into a whirlwind rollercoaster ride of thoughts, ideas and emotions that you just don’t want to get off of. The storage bag costumes becoming a motif throughout, providing bouts of comical relief. There are high energy dance pieces, heartbreaking acrobatic solos and expertly placed moments of spoken words, snippets of a narrative bubbling under the surface, but never fully reaching the forefront. Brilliantly lit to accompany such a well-crafted soundscape, this show is painstakingly, beautifully crafted in its entirety.

A stand-out moment came in the form of an interpretation of pasifika dance from Artistic director Fez Fa’anana. Atop the giant table (the only set piece onstage) the dance is done to a chilling, distorted version of Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas’. As he move’s he produces paper flowers, seemingly out of nowhere and never ending. His performance is gut-wrenching, while he smiles in moments and knowingly lets the audience in, there is a stoic sadness and discomfort underlying the entire number that ends with Fez alone in silence, poetically unsure of what’s next. Similarly, Vicki Van Hout’s rendition of David Attenborough’s version of ‘What a wonderful world’ is completely brilliant. Followed by a physicalised spoken word piece on the ‘species’ is as comical as it is jarring, speaking to what we (humanity) have lost in the process of putting ourselves at the apex of life on earth, and as First nations people know, it’s a lot.

The show ends in silence, the performers standing in line across the stage staring back at the audience. All that is heard is the deep, heaving breaths of the dancer in the final number. It is harrowing and yet the perfect ending for such a show. The Artistic director takes the time to tell us, is about the unpacking of identity of the ‘multicultural creators’ (Vicki Van Hout, Dale Woodbridge Brown, Thomas Fonua, Fez Fa’anana) and their ‘white Sally without the S’ (Luke Hubbard). These are conversations, not questions to be answered or problems to be solved, which is evident throughout this show.
While it only goes for an hour, the time flies by in an instant. As BRED is raw, it is visceral and deliciously human, and it will linger with you long after you leave the theatre.