‘Cooked’ was deadly.
‘Cooked’, by Digi Youth Arts in solidarity with The Good Room, aims to shine a light on the dark history of Australia’s treatment of Aboriginal people in Australia, dating back to the arrival of Captain Cook in 1770, up to and including the present. Using the style that has become synonymous with The Good Room, the team presented a non-linear work curated from audience response to stimuli. Digi Youth Arts has brought an authenticity to the work which allows it to go beyond the style with verbatim elements, to create a unique piece. With strong direction, performances and design elements, ‘Cooked’ is a deadly achievement of theatre.
The challenge for many performers is not to play a character, but instead be present as oneself. That was the challenge facing the five-person indigenous ensemble of ‘Cooked’. Each one conquered the challenge with aplomb. Ethan Enoch, Elijah Manis, Nic Currie-Inns, Lenesha Duncan and Misteria Towler all had a moment to shine within the mixed medium of dance, spoken word poetry, rap and choral singing. While every member of the ensemble was outstanding, the moments that stood out were when the ensemble came together as one. Together, they told the story of the Australian identity through movement. Humorously, a character “doing a shoey” was also a highlight.
What makes this work remarkable is the way in which it uses its technical elements to solidify the didactic message of the work. Nevin Howell’s video design is poetic, Jason Glenwright’s lighting design is dazzling, and sound designers, Reece Bowden and Kim ‘BustyBeatz’ Bowers created standout work. The way in which Bowers and Bowden remixed classic songs to create the soundscape was both propulsive and engaging to the audience. One will never hear Men at Work’s ‘Down Under’ the same way again.
The greatest aspect is that no element outweighed another. The overall vision with design, performance and writing came together with strong direction behind it. Digi Youth Arts’s Artistic Director Alethea Beetson directed the piece with a cultural specificity and magic that allowed the work to fly by and connect straight to the heart.
Some may find ‘Cooked’ preachy. It makes its points loudly and steadfastly. For this reviewer, however, who has seen years of neglected Indigenous issues in the political arena, perhaps preachiness is exactly what the nation needs in order to break through the noise and make real change.
‘Cooked’ performed until Saturday, 28 May at the Cremorne Theatre. For more information visit the QPAC website.
Photography by Tai Bobongie