Mupullbah - Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre
Brown’s Mart Theatre, Darwin City
November 2,3, 1991
This is one of the first full length works where Tim Newth, David McMicken, and Sarah Calver, all worked on the same show, which was conceived by Tim Newth. The original director (Venetia Gillot) was away during the rehearsal times and Tim suggested David McMicken (then resident in Melbourne) as the choreographer. Sarah worked the choreography after David returned to Melbourne. The show had all the elements that would later become known in a classic Tracks production (Strong visuals, physical theatre, culturally diverse, multi-art form, intergenerational.)
This production was an adaptation of Mordicia Gerstein’s The Mountain of Tibet. The show utilised a lot of circus skills and acrobatics taught to the cast by Conrad Page. Tim Newth created the scenario and with the assistance of David McMicken a delightful piece of physical theatre was developed. Tim also designed the show, the slides, and the promotional material. Tim created a stunningly beautiful backdrop of slowly evolving projected slides that began with the Devil’s Marbles rock formation out of Tennant Creek and slowly evolved to a city landscape superimposed over it.
There was an attempt to utilise several Lajamanu students who had been involved in past residencies and who were then boarding in Darwin. Although they came to rehearsals, none ended up in the final performance.
On Venetia’s Gillot's return, the show was tightened and Sarah Calver finished the choreography. The Papua New Guinea Youth dancers and the Junior International Folk Group were added to the cast. Three performances on November 2nd and 3rd, played to 230 people
Director: Venetia Gillot
Assistant Designer: Tim Newth
Musical Director: June Mills
Choreographer: David McMicken
Assistant Choreographer: Sarah Calver
Circus Skills Trainer: Conrad Page
Musicians: June Mills, Rachel O’Shea, Drew Fay, Rob Hoad
Lighting and Production Manager: Tom Pryce
Slides: Tim Brown
Slide Operator: Graham Smith
Lighting Operator: Malcolm Frampton
Emma Cameron, Simon Chapman, Andrea Clements, Ngaire Clements, Phoebe Costigan, Dylan Jenkins, Rico Mills, Conrad Page, Dominica Raymond, Amanda Risk
Storyteller: June Mills
The Papua New Guinea Youth dancers
The Junior International Folk Group
Corrugated Iron Youth Theatre presented one of the most overwhelming pieces of theatre I have ever seen done by any theatre company, youth or otherwise – Mupullbah.
Mupullbah is theatre to rejuvenate the Spirit. Simple, effective theatre of life, death, reincarnation and choice.
An adaptation of Mordica Gerstein’s “The Mountains of Tibet” presented by twenty young people ranging in ages from seven to seventeen with continuous musical accompaniment by June Mills and a trio of gifted musicians.
Director Venetia Gillot and designer Tim Newth have coordinated a superb balance of ensemble storytelling with colour slide projections, traditional Aboriginal, Papua New Guinea and Israeli dance, fire juggling, unicycle riding, and sheer enthusiasm. It is rare to see a mixed cultural bag work so well.
The story and sentiment of this production touched everyone. Looking around the audience after the 55 minute performance I noticed how emotionally moved people were. Local Darwinians are a hard, down to earth crew, often too brash to allow anything to touch them deeply – but here at Brown’s Mart they were drawn together in humble humanity to celebrate the cycle of life we all share.
A young boy likes flying kites. He grows into a man, has a family and dies. After death he enters the afterlife, called ‘Mupullbah’ and is offered a choice: Either return to life, or remain in the endless universe as a soul. He is treated to a series of visions that we, the audience, share with him …
Choreographers David McMicken and Sarah Calver prove themselves to be not only highly creative but also remarkably inventive with the mixed range of young people they are working with. The simplicity of the story is reflected in the simplicity of the dance and movement.
Its effect is visual theatre that far surpasses fat over funded companies around the country who suggest that this type of entertainment is never produced (unless it is handed a fistful of fiscal fodder; take note Kim Carpenter et al…) The enthusiasm of the cast is obvious as they jump, leap, run, and gyrate as stars in the sky or creatures on the surface of the planet selected by the dead man to live his next life on … a small blue/green planet with a strong yellow sun. Our hero, the dead man, is offered a view of various lifestyles of humanity – everything from high Anglo culture to the simplicity of long-grass living (outdoor, under the stars nomadic living). There were cheers from the audience when the man chose to be born as an Aboriginal female.
It’s unfair and hard to say thank you to any individual involved in this production because it was obvious that the production was an ensemble work. However, Venetia Gillot and CIYT administrator Dianna Devlin deserve to be showered with accolades for directing and coordinating such a memorable event. Mupullbah will be a dead cert for a return season when Darwin hosts the South Pacific Arts Festival in the future because it embraces the types of values this country needs to explore. Mupullbah was/is utterly brilliant. Congratulations to all involved.
Review by David Paul Jobling
Dance Development Office: Sarah Calver
[Under Brown’s Mart Community Arts – Executive Officer Ken Conway]
"The story and sentiment of this production touched everyone. Looking around the audience after the 55 minute performance I noticed how emotionally moved people were. Local Darwinians are a hard, down to earth crew, often too brash to allow anything to touch them deeply – but here at Brown’s Mart they were drawn together in humble humanity to celebrate the cycle of life we all share." Review by David Paul Jobling