NORPA Q&A with Kirk Page
Leading regional theatre company NORPA recently sat down with Director Kirk Page to discuss his career, and his upcoming dance theatre work Djurra, premiering as a part of Artstate Lismore. Kirk Page will also be speaking at Artstate Lismore as a part of the First Nations Creatives panel on Friday 1 December, 11:50am – 12:50pm.
You recently travelled to Sydney as part of an artist exchange with Critical Path, can you tell us more about this project and the knowledge you brought back with you?
I was lucky enough to participate in a workshop led by NZ artist Charles Koroneho held at Critical Path a choreographic centre in Sydney who are a creative partner of NORPA. It was wonderful and I loved being a part of a small artist community for the week.
Through an examination of bereavement, lamentation and funeral practices we explored the possibilities of the communal and ceremonial body in performance. The workshop explored hiatus and repose, the aesthetic preparation and presentation of the dead, keening, lamentation songs and artefact making. These provocations provided a platform to develop and explore choreographic thresholds, the cultural precipice, transgression and liminality.
It made me think of the people who are now passed and how an authentic judgeless community point of view could have made a difference to the people who have passed, my dead. During one of the exercises we were asked to embody the corpse and also vocalise lament. There was confrontation, self-concern, letting go, tears, snot, more tears and lots of guttural wailing…
I was left with an incredible sense of the power of community and how it’s sadly lacking in our everyday life; it’s been my personal aspiration to nurture it more…
I was also blessed to be a part of a creative development produced in partnership with Carriage Works and led by Lemme Ponafasio (Artistic Leader of MAU dance company). Again it was so refreshing to be in the room and experience such incredible artistry, vision and theatre making. I could die a happy man.
You recently worked on the Horses Mouth project with eight young people in an expression of contemporary indigenous perspective. This project expands on one of NORPA’s ambitions to engage with artists beyond the Northern Rivers. What is your approach when working with young, emerging artists from other communities?
The first creative development was about finding out about the young artists, what they where interested in and capable of. I tried to create a space where they could be challenged, achieve things they may have found challenging before, and also a platform for them to show how awesome, beautiful and courageous they are. We looked at some structured improvisation to get them sharing about their experiences of being black and living in regional NSW. The group was really fearless and worked well together. I’m looking forward to the next creative development!
Does your connection to country and community play a role in the way you create work?
If I was to be 100% honest, sometimes I feel quite disconnected. What I can say is that working in a community like Lismore with Aboriginal artists and knowledge keepers is a real challenge but often results in massive breakthroughs – personal and professional. Seeing something that I couldn’t see before, it keeps me honest in a way. I’m often reframing the idea of performance, letting go of what my ideas and vision of what performance is so that I can get out of the way and let the artists lead.
The kind of activity I’m doing at the moment is governed by the ability and interests of the artists that I’m working with. I like being led by what the performer might be curious about. It’s a combination of give and take, to put it simply, from both sides.
I love watching a body interpret story or memories, I enjoy the challenge of getting the most provocative version that I can. I am only a sum of my parts, every teacher or peer or friend that I have met influences the way I think about stories or the retelling of them. I’m essentially recycling all of the stuff I’ve experienced over the last 23 years of being in a rehearsal or workshop space. I think we are gifted in the sense that we have sung our songs and danced our dances, created worlds and existed in the sky since we walked on this country. We’ve never not made theatre LOL! We are not coming up with any new ideas, its all been done before, I think we are constantly creating or reimagining our favourite experiences through art, theatre and stories
You are directing Djurra this year, what can we expect from this production?
A riveting and entertaining night/day in the theatre!
I hope audiences will get a glimpse into a magical but real experience of being Aboriginal in a country that hasn’t always been generous, loving or kind to its First Nations people. I want this production to bring us closer to each other in understanding where we come from and how we got here.