Innercity and proud

Clare Grant, Keith Gallasch

Stand Your Ground

Stand Your Ground

Stand Your Ground

Great excitement at the door and an insistent clamouring to get in from some young people who had not booked, still giving it a go although they don’t carry the magic ticket. A security guard and box office at the gate manage to create a sense of energy contained. A bit of a scramble for seats inside and the image of a small sea of excited moving figures. The shoreline of performer-audience geography shifts back and forth as the players burn with animation, leaning forward from their front row seats—emptied and filled again as they jump up to perform then slither back to ogle and shout support, to call to a performing friend, shy-looking and focused on her task. They must have told her something good. Her composure dissolves only for a moment.

The noise is big (from performers, parents, friends, teachers) and the entrances grand, with the exception of the quiet still presence of Billy MacPherson who welcomes us to the land with a raw and powerful sung poem—a rare still point amidst moving lights, projected images, furious dancing. Our focus on this place at this time is heightened by the filmed story of a city boy’s return home after a stay in the bush. Life in the streets of the innercity is a comfort after sleeping out with the terror of the spirits of someone else’s country.

Images of the street, voices in the dark telling it how it is and 3 white-shirted, rock-solid, soft-voiced young male singers leaning into their hand-held ‘voice box’ mikes. Anchors in a raucous hyped-up crowd of spectators and performers urged on by master rapper and hip-hop artist Morgan Lewis playing MC, throwing in the odd bit of drumming and break-dancing.

Huge shouts of recognition and acknowledgment for each group, which swells as the Miamis are bumped into the space from the street in the back of a big white people-mover van. The shout that goes up for “Waterloo 2017” makes sure we will never forget the singers’ postcode.

The noise and action contrast with the angular diffidence, squishy T-shirt adjustments, totally self-contained rippling movements of dancing bodies with many kinds of grace. They check the next series of steps over their shoulders as they work the chewing gum and grin momentarily, then drop us into a new reality as we see them hanging out at the gym, dancing in the streets, running from the police or involved in a street dispute captured in multiples on video screens.

Stand Your Ground, the creation of 70 young people, many of them Indigenous, from Redfern, Waterloo, Alexandria and Erskineville, generates a tremendous sense of place and identity. The performers celebrate the slice of innercity Sydney where they live, its group loyalties are passionate, its dangers tinged with excitement. It’s in the media again this week—public transport re-routed after hurled objects repeatedly damage buses. It’s a site of maximum development—vast stretches of expensive new apartment blocks, revitalised industrial sites, car showrooms, trendy pubs and cafes—and chronic underdevelopment: unemployment, poor housing, poverty and the social tensions they breed.

A one-off like Stand Your Ground, where everyone seems to know everyone, and where pride can be displayed without antagonism, talent given a go or the community have fun, is more necessary than just worth doing. It might not be up to PACT’s usual stringent aesthetic standards, but it’s not that kind of show: its volatility, the calls that pass between stage and audience, the raucous shocks and pleasures of recognition and sharing constitute something more palpable than a fiction on stage. Stand Your Ground is one deadly multimedia concert.

Stand Your Ground, Hip Hop, Morganics (aka Morgan Lewis); dance, Leah Howard; performance, Caitlin Newton-Broad & Billy MacPherson; video. Rebecca Ingram; design, Jonathan Jones; consultant Alicia Talbot; lighting, Shane Stevens; production manager, Richard Montgomery; PACT Youth Theatre in collaboration with Cleveland Street High School, JJ Cahill Memorial High School, Waterloo Girls Centre, Fact Tree, South Sydney Youth Service, Joseph Sargeant Centre, The Settlement & Cell block Youth Health Services; Australia Council (Community Cultural Development Board), South Sydney Council, Myer Family Foundation. PACT Youth Theatre, September 21-22

RealTime issue #46 Dec-Jan 2001 pg. 39

© Clare Grant & Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 December 2001