By Natalie Wadwell
Fear of Missing Out, or FOMO, is rife in the arts. There is a lot of activity across greater western Sydney and NSW, which means that getting to everything is just not humanly possible. I know because on more than one occasion I have tried.
I would not have considered myself a theatre buff. I find it hard to absorb everything in one sitting. But that’s also what is great about theatre. It is dynamic, in the moment and a good show will make you want to see it again and again.
Here are three performances from the last few months that I think are worth having FOMO over.
Finding out you have entered participatory theatre can be daunting, but this production levelled-up to enhance the experience. By drilling in on society’s generalised apathy towards asylum seekers, Tribunal called a people’s court. It explored the connection between Aboriginal people and asylum seekers, the value of shared experiences and storytelling to build understanding and the rigid nature of our systems. It was clever piece of theatre that combined the personal with the social and political climate of Australia.
My full review of this production from PYT | Fairfield can be found here
#2: A Smurf in Wanderland
Theatre as personal essay, this production mapped the complexities of Sydney identity through Football fan culture. It was east versus west; Sydney FC versus the western Sydney Wanderers. The tiered seating was divided into red and blue – the grandstand of participatory theatre. To clarify, a smurf is a Sydney FC supporter; wanderland is a Wanderers home game.
This is forward in your seat good theatre with only one actor – David Williams. He shared with us his family’s migration from the United Kingdom to western Sydney, traversing the public transport of south west Sydney every day for school and the sense of belonging conjured through team sports, in particular football.
From membership to home game crowds with seas of paraphernalia, memorabilia and the chants that unite individual voices into a sea of sound. Divided into two 40 minute halves the energy of the play builds like a good football match – stage left, stage right, center, participatory cheers, snacks, repeat.
The landing moments come when Williams unpacks why establishing the Wanderers was a symbolic act. In his mind, it wasn’t just about adding another team to the field. The Western Sydney Wanderers did what NSW politics still struggles to achieve today – the gesture that Western Sydney is not just elsewhere, but it is somewhere. That it’s people, their opinions and values are valid. I had goosebumps.
Smurf in Wanderland is another production that draws on the personal and leaves audiences captivated by effective storytelling.
#1: Black Birds
Black Birds is a raw reminder that language is a weapon.
Poetic and humorous, dynamic and fast paced – Black Birds is storytelling at its best. From the costumes and staging, to the script and chemistry between to the two performers, Black Birds will stay with audiences. It builds through the ages, sharing the actor’s personal experiences being confronted with racist remarks in the schoolyard and in society more broadly.
It is all underpinned by the running metaphor of hair, playfully leveraged to talk about othering and exoticisation. The play builds through the physical and emotional exhaustion of the two protagonists, worn down continuously teaching others how to pronounce their names, stereotypes of their heritage, assumptions of their culture, and blatant othering. Eventually they collapse. Audio overlay between scenes captures the experiences of other people of colour in Australian society.
The message: good intentions are not going to be enough to cure Australia of institutional racism. Black Birds is a production by Emele and Ayeesha and was a part of The Q’s resident development program at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre in Penrith.
Have you experienced fomo in the arts lately? What do you wish you got to see and what stopped you from participating?