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Missing the Bus to David Jones


In October, 2009 Theatre Kantanka presented MISSING THE BUS TO DAVID JONES at Performance Space in the Carriageworks. I remarked that this was a work of some importance. Other critics, concurred. I lamented that the work may not have the audiences it deserved and, so, am heartened and encouraged that Performing Lines has taken it aboard in its producing endeavours. That the Seymour centre have curated it as part of their season is highly laudable. I hope it attracts an audience.

This remarkable and incisively relevant collaboration, envisioned and conceived by director Carlos Gomes, deals with the growing needs of an ageing community. It focuses on the inhabitants and carers of a care facility, that, in its promotional material suggests it is ‘ cutting edge’ in quality. The ‘clients’, their families and the staff are all represented by six versatile performers/devisors: Valerie Berry, Rosie Lalevich, Phillip Mills, Katia Molina, Kym Vercoe and Michael Denka. (Mr Denka re-creating, seemingly seamlessly, a role originally contributed by Arky Michael). The activities of the facility are caringly explicated by the company who all spent much time in site specific research and observation. “Most of the verbal text is from those people we met in facilities we visited.” It has a ring of authenticity. The physical body distortions, extreme, but also painstakingly and heartbreakingly authentic.

In seeing this work again, the gained perspective is in the subtle and sensitive care that the company have chosen to illustrate the world that, although at this time is “someone else’s reality”, but, given the whirlygig of time, my possible future. In lesser hands this work could have been uncomfortably “in yer face”. For instance, the episode of the incontinence of the aged gently integrated with an exercise ball game with a large see through balloon, that only latterly has the handprints of a “brown” accident. In other, lesser hands it could have developed as an insidious vulgar laugh. The dressing of a patient from the nakedness in a shower to a street credence, is handled with proper respect and gentle pathos – which for me, underscored more powerfully, in its almost Brechtian appropriated imagery, its delicacy in communication. Time and again the dramaturgy by Annette Tesoriero is assured in its skill of communication. The truly beautiful pathetic waiting for the bus to David Jones, the iconic image of this production, totally memorable in the embodiments of character by Katia Molino and Valerie Berry.

The use of the video projections (Joanne Saad) in this bigger space seemed to be more impactful. The delightful, nostalgic music sound track (The Anniversary Waltz, for instance) full of generational resonances (Nick Wishart).

The duration of the performance moves quickly by. The audience about me this time, in the York Theatre, of a generation who have cared for parents and friends already and perceive their future closely to them, reflected in the stage time and place. Their reaction was gentle, amused and entirely, it seemed to me, by the applause, grateful. Care for the future of the aged, of which we will all be part of, intimately and lovingly explored. No embarrassments just gentle truths.

I encourage you to take your family of all generations. It will awaken a subject not always publicly aired, is rather delicately avoided or mocked. This beautiful production could open the doors to personal preparation and political action to ensure the final stages of life are respected, comfortable and normal. Performing Lines must find it difficult to “sell” this show. More credit to them for engaging in it. The choice of the work to me, represents vision and responsibility to our community. Better this than the recent Arts Projects Australia production: LITTLE GEM, that that organisation thought, relevant or useful to tour the country.