Page 8

Downstage Theatre, Wellington

08/03/2006 - 12/03/2006

New Zealand International Arts Festival

Production Details

by David Page & Louis Nowra
directed by Stephen Page

Company B Belvoir St Theatre [Australia]

An exuberant and moving celebration of personal identity and family, Page 8 follows the rollercoaster ride of Aboriginal actor and composer David Page’s early years. Music, Super 8 home movies and drag reveal a life filled with both love and heartache…

Theatre , Music ,

1 hr 40 min, no interval

One man, his family, his life

Review by Lynn Freeman 15th Mar 2006

One man, his family, his life.

A famous young Aboriginal singer then a lost youth then once again a successful musician and performer. Such a simple premise turned into such a charming, warm hearted and thoughtful 100 minute solo show by David Page.

He is an honest and endearing storyteller born into a large Aboriginal family that made its own entertainment, from outdoor concerts to mini Olympic games. No wonder that some of the 12 Page children went on to make their name in the arts. David Page sings beautifully, moves with the elegance of a dancer and instantly takes us, the audience, into his confidence.

It’s an uplifting story with loads of laughs along the way – we even see the outrageous 70s flared outfits he was made to wear as a child star. But the fragments of his life that embed themselves in your memory are the more serious moments, like the death of his brother and his aunty who was one of the lost generation and who went on to lose her mind.

You couldn’t get a bigger contrast than the heart-felt simplicity and quality storytelling of Page 8 and the overblown, flashy and incomprehensible production of The Holy Sinner.


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From storytelling to spectacle

Review by John Smythe 10th Mar 2006

I’ll get my gripe over first. I’m getting used to performers and directors devising works that could do better on the dramatisation side. But with a seasoned playwright like Louis Nowra on the case I’m surprised that Page 8 – co-written with its solo performer David Page – weighs itself down with an awful lot of inactive reportage, delivered in the past tense. The up-side, I suppose, is that when live action does occur, in the present moment, it is extra-effective by contrast.

That said, the particular autobiographical story David Page has to tell – at the behest of, and skilfully abetted by, his dancer/choreographer/director brother Stephen Page – is equally fascinating for its uniqueness and its universal dimensions. And there is no doubting David’s skills as a storyteller, actor, singer and drag queen cabaret performer. When he says at the end, "You mob don’t know who I am," I want to reply, "Yes I do, you’ve just told me and shown me!" Such is the effectiveness with which he has shared his life to date.

But when I check the programme afterwards I realise he is also a multi-award-winning composer with impressive credits in writing music for dance, film, television and festivals, including the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the yet-to-be seen 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. So we don’t get to know it all from this show. (Stephen incidentally has, among other things, been Artistic Director of Bangarra Dance, directed the indigenous segments of the 2000 Sydney Olympics opening ceremony, is currently working on a collaboration between Bungarra and The Australian Ballet, and was Artistic Director of the 2004 Adelaide Bank Festival of the Arts.)

Born the eighth child in the large Page family (hence the title), David survives his first crisis in the womb, when his twin brother aborts at seven months. Claimed by an Aunty and Uncle, he grows up with two sets of parents and two Queensland places to call home. Dualities also occur in his large family home life which is deprived, tough and abusive on the one hand, rich, loving and nurturing on the other. Shit happens, sure, on personal, family and wider community levels but, the way he tells it, it is all part of growing up and it has all contributed to making him who he is today.

He is not alone, of course, in finding fame by imitating American pop stars. His fooling about as the lead singer (Michael) component of the Jackson Five-style concerts mounted with siblings on the laundry roof leads to his winning a pub talent quest which in turn leads to his being talent-spotted and becoming a child recording star – Little Davey page – performing pop chart covers in live concerts and on television throughout Australia. It’s a long time later, after a roller-coaster adolescence precipitated by the sense of abandonment that follows his voice breaking, that he re-focuses on his musical talent through the Centre for Aboriginal Studies, and co-founds a group called As You Are, to compose and record Aboriginal originals.

When his Aunty and Uncle need to be cared for, however, that becomes his new priority and he embraces that with equal love. This way, it occurs to me, he gets a shot at parenting. And it’s his parents who take over so he can get back to Sydney, reconnect with his brothers and work on his music. Now he belongs in many places, in many ways.

At the Festival’s Art and Belief lunchtime seminar for Indigenous Voices (Thur 9/3), David Page made it clear he is grounded by his sense of identity as a family member and an Australian Aboriginal, and he is energised by performing live. His pleasure in that becomes ours as Page 8 turns from basic storytelling through simple, often moving, re-enactments to high camp theatrical spectacle.


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Moving, funny and theatrical

Review by Laurie Atkinson [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 09th Mar 2006

Page 8 is, as the performer’s brother and director states, a love letter to David Page’s family. Families are often seen, as Oscar Wilde once said, as terrible encumbrances, especially when one is not married. Not so for David Page whose family is his bedrock.

Eighth in a family of twelve, David was a performer from his earliest days when he danced and sang on the kitchen table as well as on the laundry roof for the benefit of the neighbours at his family home in the outer suburbs of Brisbane.  A talent scout spotted him after he won a talent quest in a pub and he was signed up with a record company as Little Davy Page and toured Australia and appeared on TV. Then his voice broke.

In his late teens he comes out but that was no problem for his family. But as a gay Aborigine he finds life tough and he descends into drink, drugs and drifting. We are spared the details of his dark days and there is no mention of any racial prejudice he may have met along the way, except at school which is shrugged off. However, he perseveres and pursues his love of music as well as occasionally performing in drag.

But always he comes back to his family whom we see and get to know in the home movies that David made when he was given as a youngster a Super-8 camera. We also get to know them, particularly his aunty, as he acts them out in brief scenes. Moving but also very funny is the scene when he looks after his uncle and aunt who have succumbed to dementia.

His autobiographical performance ends with a theatrical flourish that had the audience cheering. I assume they were also cheering not only his abilities as a drag queen, a quick-change artist and a brilliant lip-syncher, but also as a warm, life-affirming performer and story-teller.


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