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The Promise

Sydney Institute TAFE: EORA COLLEGE in conjunction with PACT, Centre for Emerging Artists presents THE PROMISE – A Musical Drama by Jadah Milroy , original score by Dalmazio Babare at the Pact Theatre, Erskineville.

On Saturday (23rd October) it was gratifying to read that THE SAPPHIRES, a musical featuring, mainly, an Indigenous cast has got a gig in London at the Barbican. NAMATJIRA is gracing the stage at Belvoir to great appreciation. I attended a graduation show from the Eora College, a play with music (rather than a Musical). This was another kind of musical by other aspiring indigenous artists and I thought it important to record the endeavour. “Eora is a vibrant, community focused education centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people.”

In the program notes Liza-Mare Syron, the director says: “THE PROMISE is a musical drama written by Jadah Milroy Plieter. I found it amongst the Australian Script Centre’s collection. Jadah wrote this play during her own studies at the Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) in Melbourne. The score is written by then VCA music student Dalmazio Barbare (Ms Syron is herself a graduate from the VCA Acting course) …THE PROMISE is a story of Vikala, a young woman whose husband is lost at war. She has remained pregnant for three years awaiting his return. During this time Vikala is kept medicated in an institution” This play tells of a medicated escape dream where “she escapes one night in search of her family into the underworld. There she meets an assortment of lost and tortured souls. THE PROMISE is a psychological journey towards redemption.”

If you are familiar with Guillermo del Toro’s film PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006) and the fantastic dreamscape of that young heroine’s world you will have some inkling of the fascinating, bizarre imaginary landscape of the young , medicated aboriginal woman in this work. Images and references from THE WIZARD OF OZ, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, Grimm’s fairytales and a wealthy concoction from the animal-tokens, dream worlds of the Aboriginal cultures loom out at you both in impressively designed costume and make-up’s (Ali Whiteford), set design and video/sound artistry (Jaqueline Mills). The director (Ms Syron) has urged the actors into a highly stylised vocal and physical characterisation (assisted by the movement choreography of Victoria Hunt) and the musical interludes and songs are pre-recorded and interestingly orchestrated. The work of the performers is large and ‘grotesque’ in contrast to the distraught and questing Vikala.

The world of this play is very impressive in it’s surreality (the eye video creation on the wall reminded me of the Dali invention for the Hitchcock dream sequence in SPELLBOUND) and although most of the artists are ‘emerging’ and not fully developed, the artistic integrity and ambition of the work places another valuable facet to the other indigenous work that I have seen in Sydney this year and thus deserves, for history’s sake, if for no other reason, registering.

Congratulations all, especially Ms Syron in finding and then daring to explore this work. The performances concluded on Saturday night.