Anyone who saw a performance of the recent NORPA production Flow at Lismore City Hall won't be surprised to learn the show isn't going away. The NORPA crew are preparing to pitch Flow to venues and festivals around the country, as well as looking at an in-school version.
The show's two performers Mitch King and Blake Rhodes - both Yaegl men of the Bundjalung Nation - steadily developed Flow over more than three years with NORPA supporting them and providing theatre-making expertise to sensitively stage this important story.
At the heart of Flow are two elements: the first native title claim granted to a body of water in Yamba in 2018 and Mitch's own journey in making the show. Flow is a yarn about searching and finding identity in music, urban culture and nature and marrying ancient stories with contemporary music and dance.
Director Jade Dewi Tyas Tunggal believes the involvement of community and Elders makes this a rare and brave piece - both personal and universal.
"Flow is the product of a very collaborative effort...the insightful knowledge of Yaegl family and phenomenal artworks of Frances Belle Parker are crafted into the show with the expert theatre-making skills of our extended Creative Team," she said.
Mitch and Blake are seasoned creatives with a hip hop background. Flow evolved from Mitch's 2018 spoken word performance about the Yaegl Native Title Determination Day. The story is told through dance, poetry, visual imagery and rap. On stage we see the storyline through the eyes of a child, a teenager and an Uncle. Faces and voices of Elders are skilfully woven into the narrative with an audiovisual backdrop by designer Mic Gruchy elevating Blake's musical score.
Mitch says as a Yaegl man 'it all had to do with water' - the mighty Clarence River or Biirrinba: "We should be looking after this precious resource. The river is actually within us, it's connected to us and you can hear it in the voices onstage and the way I embody it throughout the performance. We need to take care of it for future generations."
"We should be looking after this precious resource. The river is actually within us, it's connected to us and you can hear it in the voices onstage."Mitch King
For Mitch and Blake spending a week with Elders on Country earlier this year was a special experience. For Blake it was one of the best things he's done in a long time: "We worked on Flow the whole time, we ate together and they shared stories and we got to show them a tape of the performance that we'd put together at the end of last year and we got their feedback. It's been a very back and forth conversation with them on Flow since the beginning," he said.
Mitch was blown away by the audience reaction.
"On the first night there was family, friends and community members. Some people hadn't been to the theatre before and some came back for a second night. Both my Nans were there. It was an incredible gathering that we created and I want to keep doing that for the community."