Bushfires are a familiar summer phenomenon in Australia but, if you’re among the majority of lucky Australians, you don’t see much beyond the nightly news segments and brief interview soundbites from survivors. What does a bushfire do to a community or a family? How might the shock of loss shape the rest of someone’s life?
Devisor and performer Deborah Pollard pulled back the curtains of her family home and welcomed the audience into her photo albums to tell the story of her family’s experience with the 2003 Canberra bushfires and, specifically, the trajectory of her father’s life afterwards. As a one-woman show, Slow Burn jumped around from recounts of specific childhood memories to a sightseeing tour through Canberra’s notable landmarks to a reflection on the impact of climate change as represented in Pollard’s father’s life story. It was the classic Australian tragedy of working hard and building something stable for your family before a force of nature took it all back.
Pollard’s performance was engaging with an up-beat charm that really jazzed up the atmosphere of suburban Canberra. Showing off her singing chops quickly impressed the audience but it was her enthusiasm in performing and the authenticity of her stories that really won us over. Considering the range of emotions Pollard covered, from silliness to utter devastation, the pacing was overall smooth and even, if the transition into the bushfire perhaps too accurately mimicked the shock of the real event.
Simple, subtle touches in the set design worked well to recreate the familiar warmth of a family home with warm, targeted lighting, designed by Benjamin Turner, to keep the focus steady. Phil Downing’s sound design was particularly enjoyable for the sampling of 1970s crooning tunes that brought the era to life again.
If you’ve ever wondered what lingers after the news crews have left a burned out town, Slow Burn offers an account without too much sentimentality or sugar-coating but with a warmth and honesty that is hopeful and resilient.
Slow Burn is running at the Joan Sutherland Performing Arts Centre from January 13th – 22nd
Night Writes stands in solidarity with Palestinian people, activists, and BDS organisers as they call for a boycott of Sydney Festival 2022. Night Writes condemns the sponsorship of Sydney Festival by the Israeli Embassy as collaboration with an apartheid regime. By refusing to return the sponsorship, Sydney Festival has compromised itself and its programmed artists two years into a pandemic that has devastated the arts community. For more information and to sign the open letter, visit here.
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