What does it mean to mourn, to grieve, to continue living after death? Where does one spirit fit into the expansive universe of spirits, gods, and natural forces that stretch out into eternity? In a combination of poetry, theatre, movement, and music, solo performer Ana Chaya Scotney takes the audience on a journey through space, time, and dimension.
On the five year anniversary of her brother Rūaumoko’s death, Agnes (Scotney), also known as ScatterGun for her notorious spitting, is trapped in a room of relatives and relative strangers, caught amongst family disputes and clashing categories of race, gender, and class. As she moves through difficult conversations and unexpected encounters, the focus of the day spirals through grief, memory, desire, duty, before she finally gets a chance to connect with Rūaumoko himself in a conversation that grounds her back in the energy of the earth.
Opening with a combined sequence of symbolic, repetitive movement and looped sounds, ScatterGun After the Death of Rūaumoko was a dense, bilingual, interdisciplinary text that drew many oral, aural, and visual elements into the complex internal and external narrative arcs. Scotney moved through various personas including channelling the voices of ancient Māori ancestors while ScatterGun swapped between duologues, dialogues, and internal monologues to construct the many people and conversations involved in mourning Rūaumoko. Much like the monologues of Mark O’Rowe’s Terminus, the narrative guide of ScatterGun After the Death of Rūaumoko gently pulled the audience through a fully populated world of people, spirits, and other-Earthly forces for a structurally unusual and literarily thrilling journey.
Director Stella Reid used pacing, tone, physicality, and technical design to give shape and space to Scotney’s abstract, surreal script so the audience always felt securely situated in the story. Isadora Lao’s lighting design was often subtle, using targeted lighting in warm spotlights to focus audience attention and pull in and out of ScatterGun’s mind. Later in the production, in the abstracted conversation between ScatterGun and Rūaumoko, Lao used strips of vibrant red to represent the pulsing energy intertwined with Rūaumoko and his legacy. Sound designers Haz and Charlotte Forrester created atmospheric soundscapes while the majority of the production’s sound was diegetic sounds produced by Scotney on stage through looping her own haunting voice, stomping on the echoing ground, and clapping her hands onto reverberating surfaces like her own body. This use of organic sound was particularly effective in the repeated movement sequences used by ScatterGun to represent her brother’s relationship to the Earth’s molten core, shifting tectonic plates, and volcanic eruptions. The pared-back design, use of both sound and silence, and Scotney’s commitment to the movement made for a vulnerable, moving, and impactful representation of embodied understanding of connection, family, and legacy.
ScatterGun After the Death of Rūaumoko was highly original both technically in its use of interdisciplinary performance techniques but also narratively in its consideration of characters stretching between life and death and through time and space. Scotney’s performance was finely tuned with an acute ear for both humour and emotion as she wove a deeply engaging narrative of a young woman facing enormous questions of meaning and justice and care. Unlike anything else on Sydney stages, ScatterGun After the Death of Rūaumoko was an incredible feat that dove right to the heart of theatre-making and story-telling.
ScatterGun After the Death of Rūaumoko ran at the Seymour Centre from September 13th – 17th as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival
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