That little mile-marker you see mid right; it’s the millionth sleeper (which they obviously didn’t lay) in the immense rail line connecting Adelaide, South Australia to Darwin, Northern Territories.
Right now I’m on a research project for VIAPERFORMANCE, aboard the epic Ghan Train.
I’m in Australia, working towards our next piece (which is currently top secret) by studying aboriginal myth and the development of oral histories (in Litchfield and Kakadu national parks). I’ll also be looking into human migration history and winemaking (in the Barossa, just outside of Adelaide) and playing a couple of tour dates with my singer songwriter mom (who is considerably cooler than I am, at 60).
Having flown to Adelaide last week, I’ll now be spending three days on the train, getting to Darwin, then four days driving, camping and hiking with aboriginal guides up in the outback of Northern Territories. After that, I’ll spend a couple of weeks with my South Australian family back in Adelaide, the home to Jacob’s Creek, Wolf Blass, Hardys and a bunch of other less well known independent vineyards.
So the train is huge. As in, it’s kilometre long. Also my room onboard has a shower, beds and a breakfast table. Also, the train has a free bar and a michelin star restaurant. I can see how this is going to pan out.
Darwin is interesting, also sticky. Lots of interesting south-east Asian food up here too. It’s easy to forget how close to the Indonesian peninsular northern Australia really is.
I just got back from four days hiking in the national parks here, where I had the privilege of hearing a whole lot more about Dreamtime storytelling than I expected, and saw some of the most amazing, millennia-old cave paintings of gods and spirits (including one fellow who looked like a jaunty Babadook) and had chance to be taught aboriginal history in what might be the world’s oldest lecture theatre (which is on top of a mountain, and over five thousand years old).
Also, I had to replace the tire of an armoured personnel carrier, in a crocodile filled gully, 400km from the nearest gas station, garage or, indeed, decent tool kit. Standard Australia.
Australia is truly bloody big… Having experienced that out here, it’s easier to see, now, how stories passing from tribe to tribe, within an oral tradition, have built so complex a web of unwritten texts, the unspoken literature of an ancient culture, still in use today. Perhaps the most interesting output of that (for someone interested in french philosophy and the writing of theatre shows at any rate) is the blurring of fact and fiction into a rich tapestry, where history is unstable and nothing quite certain, but where all remains important, networked and valuable to the community in which it operates.
Check out that Mad Max vista… I just flew back to Adelaide, where I am now hitting the museums and galleries, learning about winemaking and human migration.
Migration is an understandably dominant theme in Australian art. It’s something I picked up on in my 2014 visits to Hobart and Brisbane, which I hope to expand on now, here in Adelaide. I also got chance to revisit one of my favourite artists (the very scenographic), Jefrey Smart.
I also went back to the venue where it all started for me, The Adelaide Festival Centre, where, in 2009, I saw The Pyjama Girl. That’s the piece that kickstarted my interest in contemporary theatre and which, ultimately, got me working with co-director Rich Wade, back at York St John.
And finally, I took some time out to play a couple of tour dates and attended some belly-dancing classes. Safe to say, I learned a lot and have (for the benefit of your eyes) decided to post a safe picture of my post-class meal at the excellent Paddy’s Lantern Bistro, Adelaide, rather than anything of my personal (and terrible) bellydancing form.