A Response to ‘Which Way Home’ by Emma-Kate Lewis

Entering the Visy Theatre on Brisbane Powerhouse’s first night of hosting Which Way Home, my eyes are immediately drawn to a fine trickling of sand that falls continuously from the ceiling. Illuminated faintly, it piles to the left of stage as a map of country stretches from ceiling to floor at the centre. Bare aside from these two striking features, it’s clear as the lights are dimmed that this is play reliant on the power of storytelling and performance over props.

Which Way Home, touring nationally from the 25thof May until the 18thof August, is written by Katie Beckett and produced by ILBIJERRI Theatre Company, Australia’s leading and longest running Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander theatre company. The company takes pride in telling stories about what it means to be Indigenous in Australia today, all of which are creatively controlled by Indigenous artists.

Which Way Home tells the story of Tash, played by Katie Beckett, and her experiences growing up Black in a predominantly white suburb with her single Aboriginal father, played by Kamahi Djordon King, as the pair take a road trip back to country. It is based upon some of Beckett’s real life experiences, and while she asserts that the character of Tash is deliberately different from her true self, there is little doubt that her experiences lend to the authenticity and intimacy of the play.

As the performance begins, boxes are piled atop one another in preparation for a road trip that Tash has meticulously planned down to a series of simple steps that she repeats to herself along the way. But it isn’t long before comical, unanticipated diversions converge with the growing tension between herself and her father, bringing old memories and fresh fears to the surface that threaten to overwhelm Tash and put a premature end to the journey that both herself and her father have long been waiting to make.

 

This is a production that relies on the strength and authenticity of the story it tells. Shifting between humour and poignancy with the same ease it does between present and memory, it demonstrates, as Director Rachael Maza remarks in the Q&A session after the show, “a want to engage in the stories of this land”.

By the end of the performance, not a single one of the boxes placed on stage by the performers at the start of the show remains. Some have been used as platforms, others ripped apart, and others still opened tentatively—all to tell the stories that were once enclosed within them. The audience is left to ruminate on the still trickling sand and projection of country in a faint light that now appears much brighter.

Which Way Home is a production that had me laughing, crying, and left me simultaneously wanting more and satisfied. It is one I firmly believe to be worthy of 5 stars, and is certainly not to be missed if you can help it.

Purchase your tickets to the remaining Brisbane shows at Brisbane Powerhouse this Friday at 7pm 0r Saturday at 2pm and 7pm.


Images by Steven Rhall

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