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Photo by Prudence Upton

The Weekend

Moogahlin Performing Arts presents a World Premiere of THE WEEKEND, by Henrietta Baird, in Bay 20, at Carriageworks, as part of the Sydney Festival, 18-23 January.

Moogahlin Performing Arts presents a World Premiere of THE WEEKEND, by Henrietta Baird, in Bay 20, at Carriageworks, as part of the Sydney Festival. 18-23 January.

THE WEEKEND is a monologue/play by Henrietta Baird, first developed at Yellamundie Festival in 2017. It began as a 10 page text and has now developed into a 65 minute monologue.

It is performed by Shakira Clanton, Directed immaculately by Liza-Mare Syron, supported by a marvellous and subtle continuous Score by Nick Wales and Rhyan Clapham, in a Set Design by Kevin O’Brien, of a three panelled ‘circus mirror’ of warping exaggeration, surrounded in light bulbs, as part of a very intricate and useful Lighting Design by Karen Norris.

THE WEEKEND begins with an introductory Choreographic dance (Vicki Van Hout). Lara, is part of a dance performance in Cairns – a three week engagement. She receives a phone call from her youngest son – their father, Simon, hasn’t been seen for days and they are running out of food. Lara with only the weekend to find him worried and alarmed returns to Sydney – and, once settling (rescuing) her boys, begins a traverse into the world of public housing and its denizens in a confrontation of drug taking and dealing and the attendant unhappy activities of that world under the threat of losing her kids to the Department of Community Services (DOCS).

Shakira Clanton, re-telling the story of Lara’s THE WEEKEND, plays a considerable series of characters seamlessly, with a fine physical definition, and a keen sense of all the individuals, with a sophisticated emotional entry and empathy. It is a mercurial performance sustained with stamina and winning confidence.

This one person monologue is written with breathtaking reality and white knuckle tension – the music score is key to maintaining that propelling energy. The dramatic storytelling, fortunately, is sprinkled with insightful comedy character study and the laughter it triggers allows one to release the gathering anxieties of Lara’s journey. For, the vertiginous thrust of the plotting of the narrative grips you tightly, breathlessly, as you identify with Lara and her desperate plight (one screams internally -“Dump that Bum Bag for God’s sake”), and the ultimate denouement of learning is a relieved surprise.

Like the people of the community in Tower One and Two, Lara realises that she too is an addict. But, an addict that has nothing to do with drugs but to a system that has had her accepting the abuse of the community and that of her ‘needy’ sex attraction to her Simon. The near loss of her children has her realise that her ‘jealousy’ and obsession  is the self-destructive ‘bomb’ that will destroy her children’s lives and her own, unless she goes cold-turkey to that addiction, that would, inevitably assure the repetition of the cycle of social and cultural annihilation that she has tried to reverse in her own experience.

The text of THE WEEKEND, by Henrietta Baird, has the sense of an authenticity of a lived experience and brings a reality to the world of her Indigenous First Peoples contemporary urban struggle and life. Like Kylie Coolwell’s BATTLE OF WATERLOO, this play takes one into a world reflecting the tragedy of a community in the lower depths of survival. It is a true tragic/comedy written with great love and understanding and is a compassionate illumination for its audience, that probably has never known that that world even existed – exists – or, if they do, in the periphery of their consciousness, has generalised a judgement decision of condemnation concerning that community. Experiencing and becoming familiar with an individual, in THE WEEKEND’s Lara, we come to genuinely care for her and her human dilemma to survive and succeed. The experience of THE WEEKEND delivers a social consciousness revelation that ought to raise understanding and urge compassionate reaching out to assist fraternally the marginalised, the expelled, the discriminated, the ‘judged’,  the displaced.

Moogahlin Performing Arts is NSW’s premier First People’s performing arts company, formed in Redfern in 2007 in honour of Kevin Smith’s request and in memory of the founding members of the Black Theatre. The vision of the company is ‘transformation through cultural arts’. The Co-Artistic Directors are Lily Shearer (the Producer of THE WEEKEND), Frederick Copperwaite and Dr. Liza-Mare Syron (the Director of THE WEEKEND). They have laboured over ten years, and the longevity of this dedication is delivering work of diversity and high quality. Last year the company as part of the Sydney Festival presented BROKEN GLASS, in Blacktown, which was, for me, a truly incisive, insightful and  transformative work, that I felt privilege to have had experienced. THE WEEKEND, by Henrietta Baird, is further confirmation of the importance of the work and vision of this company.