dream masons: big magic

magdalena grubski

Dream Masons

Dream Masons

Dream Masons

One of Hobart’s beloved landmarks is the stage for a festival extravaganza, one that could not be contained in a theatre or gallery space. Ten Days on the Island wouldn’t feel a complete festival without the outdoor theatre spectacle, Dream Masons.

In Australia, there is a tradition of labelling large-scale outdoor productions ‘community works.’ This often translates to loads of ‘emerging’ community artists working for no money in exchange for ‘training’ from ‘professional’ artists. Dream Masons is not a community work. Expert artists have been sought from the US (co-director Jim Lasko) and the ‘mainland’ (Joey Ruigrok Van Der Werven on design and construction) to work alongside many exceptional local professionals (co-director Jessica Wilson and Tania Bosak, Justus Neumann and Ryk Goddard). Dream Masons has also provided a training opportunity for many budding theatre technicians from the Salamanca Arts Centre’s SPACE course. All of these artists and more and many volunteers have collaborated on the transformation of the Salamanca Arts Centre buildings, making Dream Masons a truly site specific work.

The inhabitants share this liquorice-all-sort of a building and speak in gibberish, howling, laughing and accosting each other as they dance over three levels of the Salamanca Arts Centre façade. Their introduction is perhaps a little uninspired and drawn out but includes some considerable aerial feats. All have white faces with comically exaggerated, doll-like features. A hunchbacked landlady who collects rent in the form of ice cubes, a weeping widow who washes clothes in her own tears, a virile sailor who gets the girl and a confused fisherman are some of the motley crew we meet.

A team of volunteers create vivid underwater scenes with shadow puppets and an amazing whale using old-school overhead projectors. A live band and choir confidently belt out a water-themed repertoire, finishing with Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Large painted banners of popular Tasmanian landscapes are unfurled revealing summations of the action: “The Problem Deepens: a tipped bottle, a never-ending sponge and the sad demise of the overlooked.” They are a little unnecessary and, if anything, tend to confuse rather than add to the story.

The plot however is simple, the premise of the work a kind of cleansing in which a young boy is the catalyst for change and a symbol of hope. As the building and indeed world are flooded he is swallowed into the belly of a gigantic whale to be later ejected from the whale’s blow-hole—depicted by an impressive jet of water shooting out of the arts centre’s roof. With the help of a fisherman suspended high above us in his boat, the boy wields the wheel that will turn a giant tap and purge the building of water. And so he becomes the hero of the story.

Like the characters, the scale of the production is BIG and the big audiences are young, making Dream Masons a refreshing and unique addition to the Ten Day’s festival program

31 March 2007