Running alongside the Pacific Ocean, Bondi Beach is a potent symbol of Australia’s cultural relationship with water whether through pools at high school swimming carnivals, sprinklers during suburban summers, or the beloved Aussie beaches. Acqua Profunda: A Trilogy is an audio experience that investigates this relationship with water through three different stories of watery occurrences.
Designed to be listened to separately or as a group while walking along the beach or in the presence of other waterways as accessible, Acqua Profunda covers love, war, language, and ancestry through stories of clairvoyance, intergalactic travel, and poetic water cycles.
The Clam Before the Storm, written by Michael Louis Kennedy, is a story within a story within a story. Beginning with the frame of Isaac (Liam Nunan), who is reclaiming the beach from memories of his ex-boyfriend Nathan when he falls into a reflective mood while slurping mint choc-chip ice cream, the story then shifts to another story told by an annoying friend John (Mansoor Noor) who had a close encounter with a psychic giant squid named Carlotta (Kennedy) while caught in a rip. Carlotta wanted to warn John that his recent marriage to Shrisha was doomed to fail, a prediction based on Carlotta’s experience falling into star-crossed love with a Japanese fisherman. Structured as layers of nesting stories was a clever way to represent the theme of cyclical history, the repetitive return to the ocean that Isaac, John, and Carlotta all experience. Noor and Kennedy’s performances were particularly compelling for their commitment to character which formed a confident grounding for the story. At the same time, Kennedy’s balance of absurd humour in the bloke-y John and the speaking psychic squid with the heartfelt symbolism of love and ice cream struck an effective, sincere tone.
The second piece, Sea Monster written and performed by Jules Orcullo, took a turn towards the surreal with even less basis in reality and an interactive twist. While gazing out towards the horizon, a ship appears, a ship that works to take beings who feel unusual, odd, unwelcome in their world to other worlds that might be a better fit. As the captain explains their mission, the ship falls under attack and it’s up to the listener to evoke a powerful sea monster to fight off the attackers. In an imaginative, mischievous story, Orcullo drew on mythology about the ocean as a space of possibility and limitlessness pushed up against bloody histories of battle, boarders, and imperial control. In this way, the story felt akin to classic sci-fi and fantasy works that use metaphor and allegory to illuminate Earthly reality but, in this piece, with a playful, accessible approach and little extraneous detail.
The final piece again shifted the mode of storytelling, this time towards the lyrical and poetic with a multi-layered, soundscape-esque piece written and performed by poet Luke Patterson. Listening to this one was more akin to letting the waves of Bondi Beach wash over you as Patterson moved through the language of water from rivers and streams to the dull hum of being submerged. In this flowing recitation, Patterson also guided the listener through the water cycle, from rain clouds to water soaking deep into the earth, as a mirroring of the creation of the world and language; cycles of life and connection repeating and swirling like water. The abstract storytelling allowed the sound design by Oliver John Cameron to come to the fore with overlapping, distorted words and a metallic droning ebbing and flowing throughout the piece. Ocean Loops called on the presence of Sydney’s waterways as sources of life while also encouraging reflection on the currently unbalanced relationship between humans and water, a serious disruption to the inherit symbiotic relationship between animals and water but also a clear demonstration of the destructive history embedded in Australia’s land, culture, and water.
The three pieces of Acqua Profunda were markedly different in their approaches, tones, and effects of exploring water as a medium and force. From the humorous and absurd to the intergalactic and back into the earth, Acqua Profunda was an inventive, creative, and reflective storytelling production examining a prominent but often under-interrogated touch stone in Australian culture.
Acqua Profunda: A Trilogy is available to stream from July 1st – 17th as part of Bondi Festival
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