Friday, 11 May 2018

salt. - Next Wave Festival review

Selina Thompson is a 28-year-old black woman who lives in Birmingham. But being a woman of colour with ancestry from Jamaica and Montserrat, when asked where she’s from, the UK is often not considered an acceptable answer. To explore her diasporic identity, Thompson bought a ticket on a cargo ship and retraced one of the routes of the Transatlantic Slave Triangle, going from the UK to Ghana to Jamaica, and then back.

In salt., Thompson poetically recalls this experience with the audience while reminding us of the irreparable damage colonialism has had on her ancestors and how this grief will be felt for generations to come. Thompson also ties in her own personal encounters with racism in all its forms, and we hang off her every word as she goes trough these incidents, reinforcing the fact that despite the passing of time, attitudes have changed very little.

She calmly but passionately shares an incredulous racist story told to her nana by a school teacher on why black people are black. The restraint that is exhibited not only during this moment but throughout the performance build a bond with the audience, and allows her words to find their way straight into our hearts and thoughts, where they linger well after the show ends. 

Even with the claustrophobia and intensity that Thompson creates, the careful direction by Dawn Walton ensures that you never feel overwhelmed or overloaded with what you are seeing and hearing. The crushing of the salt rock is a powerful symbol of the oppression and abuse black people have suffered and the physical exhaustion that Thompson shows is easily interpreted as the emotional and psychological struggle that exists for many.

Cassie Mitchell has designed a superbly atmospheric lighting that fully supports the production and the sound by Sleepdogs Production is especially noteworthy, eliciting a strong nostalgic response when Thompson speaks of her family, particularly her nana. A serene yet confronting ocean soundscape is used to emphasise the feelings of isolation and hope from the journey undertaken.

When Thompson lists her experiences of racism, she ends each one by saying "Europe pushes against me. I push back". salt. is a forceful prompt that we all need to continue to push back against racism and the oppression of others, that we are all in this together. salt. concludes with a touching and genuine gesture between each audience member and Thompson, reminding us that healing is possible, but to heal we must continue to acknowledge the pain of those that have come before us.

Venue: Arts House, 521 Queensberry St., North Melbourne
Season: until 12 May | 8pm
Length: 75 mins
Tickets: $30 Full | $20 Conc | $15 Student
Bookings: Next Wave 

Photo Credit: The Other Richard

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