Venue: Petersham Town Hall
Written By: Devised by Milk Crate Theatre
Directed By: Margot Politis
Natural Order has been timed to coincide with Homelessness Week. Moving, funny, subversive and haunting, the performance not only provides a creative opportunity to those who are experiencing, or have experienced homelessness, but also explores the ways in which society denies the right to pursue a fulfilling life to the indigent.
The performance opens with a lyrical evocation of the Aboriginal concept of natural order in which all creation is equal and in which human beings share in creation’s abundance and all have the responsibility to sustain it. By contrast in our Western world sharing applies only to selfies on Facebook, and property and produce are apportioned according to the position individuals can maintain on a socio-economic hierarchy.
Capitalism has recreated the evolutionary struggle for survival, and the welfare of the “weakest” is consigned to a bureaucracy who have been conditioned to believe that their “clients” are not equal members of society. Abruptly, the dream of natural unity vanishes to be replaced by the walls, windows, doors, and the office of DAVE, the District Advanced Vocational Outlet. Stools that seem to represent trees and landscape are inverted to become uncomfortable and demeaning seats and what was open space is now compartmentalised and limited.
Spiritual responsibility for the people is replaced by a government run “hub” – the in-word of the moment implying a common connection point – but there is no evidence of the interdependence that connection implies. As we move from scenario to scenario in a kind of Pilgrim’s Progress through the DAVE Master Program, we experience the everyday reality of those seeking assistance from a bureaucracy. The white garb of the staff may suggest they are guardian angels but it seems they are agents of a deliberate disorder designed to demoralise and depress.
While the dialogue is often extremely funny, the issues raised are relevant criticisms of the punitive culture that characterises this ironically named Department of Human Services. There are many standout lines that draw hysterical mirth from the audience such as, “If you leave your name and number we may get back to you” and a comical scene in which the applicants have forms but no pens.
Forms, in fact, provide much of the comedy but eventually lead to frustration and its corollary aggression. In turn, the staff rebel against a bureaucracy that asks them under the guise of human services to crush the hopes of those who need help and to further demean the already desperate. In a rousing musical number the staff and “clients” unite to claim back their human right to the pursuit of happiness.
The performance ends on a haunting note. We watch a TV screen as figures, in unison or separately, move to melancholic music, their gestures expressing their dreams, desires and hopes. We wish the promise of fulfillment inherent in every individual who comes into the world could be acknowledged, fostered and encouraged by the society into which they are born.
Many thanks to the cast, Aslam Abdus-Samad, Peter Birbas, Shane Davis, Desmond Edwards, Flor Garcia, Owen Gill, Alicia Gonzales, Lisa Griffiths, Sandra Hickey Eugenia Langley, Yen Mekon, Ray Morgan, Matthias Nudl, Ruth Oslington, Darlene Proberts, Steve Simao, Pauline Trenerry, Lucy Watson and Georgina Wood, and to the creative crew for a deeply moving, imaginatively staged and memorable production.
August 2-10, 2019.