Access: the Mixit Summer Project 2014
25/01/2014 - 26/01/2014
MIXIT is an ongoing creative project with weekly creative focus classes for young people from refugee backgrounds mixing it up with migrants and locals.
MIXIT’s annual summer project for 2014 is the devised work to be performed around Corban’s Estate itself, which historically was owned by the Corban family as a vineyard, then was later taken over by the City Council and opened up as a public art space. The sprawling green grass and stream running through it, combined with the old but also contemporary style form of architecture provides a myriad of possibilities for theatrical imagination. Especially for the Mixers who immediately set off on given tasks specifically aimed to inform the theme of “Access”.
7 days to make a devised piece of theatre. 24 participants. 1 director working alongside 2 others. Wendy Preston, Tahi Mapp- Borren and Christopher Graham. 8 hours in the day. Throw in warm up excercises , various choices of choreographic music , dance styles , character , games , tasks to get the imagination going, skills that can be taken away into everyday life, teamwork , leadership, listening to each other, fun drama and budding friendships and you have Mixit. And that’s just the beginning of making a real sense of our surroundings and the people we are all working with.
We have an amazing array of backgrounds within the Mixit mix: Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Palestine, South Africa, Ghana, New Zealand, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Congo Brazaville, Eritrea, Rwanda, Burma, and not the least Burundi. Wow! One needs to only just walk into the rehearsal room to experience the full effect of the amazingness of what’s possible when differences are not just ignored , but celebrated.
Spectacle , Site-specific/site-sympathetic , Outdoor , Multi-discipline ,
Gifting stories we can all relate to
Review by Christina Houghton 31st Jan 2014
“Sorry no access to this area” we hear in the first opening scene of Access the lastest work by Mixit that took place in the luscious grounds of Corban Art Estate last weekend. “Or is there?” we wonder while receiving an invitation from the two sneaky characters behind him. However the question remains “do we follow or not?” and of course we do.
Mixit is a creative project aimed to empower young people from refugee backgrounds mixing it up with migrants and locals. In its 8th year it provides a format of inclusive devised dance and theatre that opens performance opportunities for young experienced and inexperienced performers alike. Individuals take weekly workshops at Corbans Estate in West Auckland, yet this particular group had come together for a mere 6 days to create this large scale performance, one that held itself up against any professional contemporary theatre piece. Guided by a creative team of leading artists, including Mixit Director Wendy Preston alongside Chris Graham and Tahi Mapp-Borren, who mentored four emerging artists recently graduated from performing arts training, as creative interns. The participants however, through a series of workshops, gifted their own stories and beliefs on life creating a rich and diverse experience of the concept of Access.
Beginning with a vibrant celebratory atmosphere of a hot summer’s evening, with music and dancing by the sausage sizzle, we were taken on a meandering journey between the personal and the narratable through the changing sites of past, present and future. As the promotional blurb stated “What does it mean to have, or be denied, access to information, knowledge, opportunities and support?” Access was a performance piece that entwined these questions into an abstract, complex and deep work that left me feeling like I had been welcomed into the wonderful enriching process that the Mixit Summer Project must have been for all participants invloved.
As red flags were waved above us, we were guided through the narrow space of the faux alley way that lies at the front of the grounds. We heard whispers and read hand-written statements relating to inner feelings of belonging, on white flags that faded to white as if in surrender. Constantly we brushed against our brightly dressed guides who sought to keep the large audience in momentum. The energy of their urgency created an excitement about what was to come.
A call from the woman on top of the wall “let the party begin!” kicked it all off in a fantastic style, raising the energy levels up a notch. Languages from other places flowed over into translations while whispers in ears are entangled with movements of drums and tambourines as we find ourselves witnessing a mortgagee sale of the original homestead. These stories – some of them both sad and intense – belonged to the participants and had grown in the process of making the work. The performers somehow delivered them with a combination of humour and acceptance that allowed for us take it on board. Other stories about such things as longing for love and acceptance, and a man looking for his family, contained a realness and authenticity that touched our travelling crowd.
Like a singing dancing revolution of many cultures, we headed down into the bush area through the habitat of the endangered penguins, a metaphor for the fragility of home and the need of protection, food and most of all shelter. I enjoyed the banter between trees as the dialogue moved above our heads. We as the roaming audience were drawn along by the contemporary dialogue of the universal search for love and identity, with Justin Beiber being a topic of youthful conversation, and soon arrived at an imagined wedding ceremony of many mixed traditions. This all seemed to be part of the ability for one to dream a new reality in a new place. The final bush walk took us past a woman in a tree , dressed in red, encouraging us to breathe, serving as a reminder that access to clean air and water is a privilege. A local man then shared a story about his grandfather and the stream we were passing which had once been his backyard, touching on issues of territory ownership and belonging. That was another story we all can relate to.
Another section shared wishes from the performers for what they might want to be when they grow up, bringing their youthfulness to the forefront and reminding us that they really are only young despite the conviction and polish the bring to their performance. Very impressive.
After a fast running race into the future, in which we all participated, the evening concluded in a more formal setting of the shed, with the audience seated and the performers translating this story into movement. They danced for us, slow moving choreography set to a touching soundscape, moving as one and with others, coming to rest with each individual facing us, repeating a message from the white flags earlier in the evening -“this is who I am accept me”. Finally, some hard out booty shaking between the two groups spread its energy to the audience, sending us home with a celebratory message of hope and positive vibes.
This work to me represented connections between the universal and the personal, the young and the old, the past and the present. It is through such connections that we create communities through performance. If this was the underlying concept behind this work then Access was a great success. Well done Mixit I look forward to the next summer project.
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