‘BRED’ was proverbial.
In conjunction with CIRCFest Meanjin and ClusterArts, Briefs Factory International delivered a sincere and deeply human performance titled ‘BRED’ at the Brisbane Powerhouse. The mixed-race, mixed-gender, mixed-medium presentation beautifully captured the lived experiences of a small but diverse group in cabaret style.
While there were snippets of political outcry, power struggles and discomfort explored, the core theme of the piece appeared to be the humanity of the individual. In discussing the piece post-show, Director Fez Faanana explained the importance of “staying in one’s lane and being expert at one’s self” – and this is poignantly reflected in the show.
As a cabaret, ‘BRED’ used dance as its primary storytelling mechanism, but it also included elements of drag, live song, slam poetry, First Nations’ dance, mime, and burlesque. There was no overarching characters or plot, but the thread of complex identity was clear throughout.
Lighting was used creatively throughout. One particular highlight included the use of LED circles to frame the faces of two characters. This appeared in a dance sequence about the abhorrent history of human zoos and was strikingly symbolic. Another was the two spots angled up towards the rear brick wall, which cast a powerful shadow as one character was wheeled on the table from downstage to upstage at the end of his solo routine.
The set was minimal with an elongated table on rollers, but the costumes were iconic. From dollar-store-handbags shaped as fancy leotards to simple jumpsuits that blended with the changing light sequences, and elements that paid homage to traditional cultural attire, the costumes were as diverse as the show itself and of similar high quality.
As Director, Faanana explained post-show, there was a collaboration in the development of ‘BRED’, however, it takes a fine eye for design to delicately balance the need for drama, comedy and discomfort. Faanana is unquestionably brilliant in this regard.
Choreography, which was largely attributed to Thomas Fonua, included a balanced mix of contemporary dance styles that were reminiscent of early Bangarra and Alvin Ailey pieces. A range of moves and sequences from the performers’ cultures were also incorporated sporadically throughout and were elegantly considered.
The compact troupe of five performers, including Fonua and Faanana, was notably culturally diverse. Post-show comments explained the performer’s backgrounds which extended across the Pacific Islands, First Nations and more.
Dale Woodbridge-Brown, an award-winning Kamilaroi performer, was celebrated in these comments, and rightly so. Woodbridge-Brown delivered a complex sword swallowing, contemporary-Indigenous dance routine with undertones of religiosity and identity.
Emily Havea stole the show in many ways. During the introduction she gave a controlled vocal performance of ‘What a Wonderful World,’ while simultaneously creating ties with an extended piece of red string and following rigid pantsula-esque choreography. Havea also gave an eerie impression of David Attenborough while again reciting the lines of the earlier song. A standout moment, however, came in the slam poetry performance in the middle of the show. Havea was rhythmic, sincere and powerful in delivering messages of encouragement, disdain and hopefulness.
Dylan Rodriguez, who was described as ‘the ally’, gave a polished and balanced performance with clean lines and movement flow. Highlights included the burlesque style sequence alongside Woodbridge-Brown, which was equal parts hilarious and stylised.
A highly intelligent and layered show, ‘BRED’ deserves deep analysis, but also to simply exist as it is. It is tame in its attempt to provoke the audience but does engage the crowd in meaningful moments of discomfort – something that only theatre and live entertainment can provide. An eclectic mix of performance mediums united by a single thread, for this reviewer ‘BRED’ was a song, a poem, and a proverb.
‘BRED’ performed until April 23rd, 2022 at the Brisbane Powerhouse. For more information about the creatives visit the Briefs Factory International website.