Bamboo from series In Between by Julia Fullerton-Batten
Grace/Fury (working title) is an ambitious community-based immersive performance project for a large cast of (predominantly female) participants of all ages. It will be developed over several years with communities in the South Coast of NSW for performance in 2025/26. The Grace/Fury performance cohort will span 8 decades (8 to 80 years) and all abilities. There’ll be moments for schoolchildren and seniors, local community groups alongside professional musicians and actors. Audiences will experience fleeting encounters with selected immortals, demigods, graces, furies and mortals from Ancient Greek (and Australian) mythologies.
Grace/Fury seeks a contemporary physical expression for mythic archetypes and iconographies that underpin these ancient stories. Who are the graces, the furies, the sirens, muses, goddesses, demigods and mortals now; how do they move in our world?
the myth of Demeter and Persephone
Grace/Fury’s leaping-off point – our portal into a vast mythological matrix – is the story of a mother’s love for her daughter. The myth of Demeter and Persephone tells of the cycle of the seasons:
Persephone is picking wildflowers in a field when Hades, the King of the Underworld, abducts her and drags her below to live in darkness as his Queen. When her mother Demeter – Goddess of agriculture and fertility – hears of her daughter’s rape, she is outraged and grief-stricken. Demeter roams the world in fury, laying waste to the Earth’s crops in defiance of Olympus’ complicity in the violation. Eventually Zeus, seeing that mortals will starve unless he concedes to Demeter’s demands, orders Hades to return Persephone to her mother – but only for part of each year. Thus, every Spring Persephone ascends to Earth to revel in the warm sunshine of Demeter’s earthly realm and bounty. Then she must return in the Winter months to the Underworld.
‘Why does tragedy exist? Because you are full of rage.
Why are you full of rage? Because you are full of grief.
Grief and rage – you need to contain that, to put a frame around it,
where it can play itself out without you or your kin having to die.’
Greek myths and their local allegorical counterparts
The timeless human themes of myth span mortality and immortality, the landscape, wonder and awe, self-attainment, love and fear, transformation, beauty and desire. How might we re-read, reimagine and share these stories in our contemporary Australian communities and landscapes to find meaningful intersections with the mythologies, epistemologies and narratives of this place?
Canberra/Braidwood based poet and visual artist Judith Nangala Crispin’s new translation of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter (written in 650-600 BC) connects the epic poem with our own South Coast landscapes and contemporary feminist themes. (Crispin traces ger ancestry to the Bpangerang people of North-Eastern Victoria and the NSW Riverina, but now lives in Braidwood on Yuin Country) The Grace/Fury script will be grounded in respectful dialogue with local First Nations women, storytellers and artists to determine resonances, parallels and synergies, between Greek myths and their allegorical counterparts from this place. We will seek ways, if appropriate, for local mythological narratives to be incorporated in the work’s development and performance.
Myths and teenagers
In his popular American books and movies for teenagers, Rick Riordan uses Greek myths to explain difficult things, observing that teenagers ‘are attracted to mythology for more than just the characters and plots. The demigods of Greek Mythology are half-human, half-god. They are caught between two worlds, and they don’t really belong in either. This is a powerful metaphor for any child… trapped between two worlds: childhood and adulthood… The archetypal hero’s story is about coming of age, taking one’s place in the world, and figuring out one’s fate. Young people can relate to this on a deeply personal level.’
Young women, and teenage girls in particular, are a big part of Grace/Fury. FLING, Bega’s youth physical theatre company, whose edgy teenage energy has become an inspirational driving force for Grace/Fury, will lead the charge. Empowered by the #metoo global protest movements and antipatriarchal heroines from Pussy Riot to Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafsai and Grace Tame, more than 100 locals (female dancers, singers, actors, percussionists and musicians) of all ages will be invited to participate in a large-scale, mobile ‘Greek Chorus’, a ritual embodiment of female rage. The chorus’s role is to provide commentary in response to the Demeter and Persephone story and action.
creative development: how the work will be made
- Work on Grace/Fury commenced in November 2023 with a first development phase with local artists. Lindy Hume and Gabby Rose conducted a three-session exploration with 5 teenage performers from FLING Physical Theatre. They were invited to explore movement and storytelling modes to build a rhythmic travelling movement sequence in response to text excerpts from The Furies,Part 3 of the Oresteia by Aeschylus (first performed in 458 BC). This work will be the basis of the chorus movement vocabulary.
- Percussionist/composer David Hewitt created/recorded a short sequence for the FLING sessions, beginning the process of merging text and percussion underscore.
- Nationally recognised (now Tanja-based) actor Tracy Mann as Narrator records Judith Nangala Crispin’s new translation of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter poem, accompanied by a draft underscore by David Hewitt. The recording will be used for rehearsals in the community setting throughout 2024/25. In performance the score will be live, played by an all-female percussion ensemble.
- Location hunting. Grace/Fury will be a site-specific immersive performance experience. Where the work will take place, or if an indoor or outdoor experience, is not yet known.
- Discussions with local First Nations community to develop local narratives, protocols and synergies.
- Design, music development and photographic activities.
- Local ensembles, including the complete FLING cohort, Geoffrey Badger’s new women’s choir, and local community members, incorporated into the mobile ‘Greek Chorus’.
- Showing/sharing of the work-in-progress.
- Community callout for additional participants, followed by a multiple month rehearsal period leading directly into a limited number of public performances.
Scenes prepared separately to be joined up in an epic narrative arc, creating a large-scale immersive theatre work performed by participants of all ages and background from the local community, alongside professional actors, musicians, singers, physical theatre and circus performers. The work may be performed outdoors or in and around a non-theatre environment such as the Bega Agricultural Pavilion or Cobargo Showgrounds.
GRACE/FURY short stories
The seriousness of the Demeter and Persephone narrative will be punctuated by 8-10 interstitial “short stories”; light, 5-minute-long sketch versions of myths (local and global) including some of the “transformed by desire” myths of Ovid’s Metamorphoses ie Echo and Narcissus, Venus and Adonis. These short myths may be developed to be encountered as mini scenes performed in unexpected sites in different performance modes.
GRACE/FURY photographic series
In parallel with the performance work, a series of enigmatic photographs will be commissioned to feed into the communications around Grace/Fury and accompany the performances as a photographic exhibition, possibly in partnership with Bega’s SECCA Gallery. Theatrical and highly stylised, local landscapes and residents from the South Coast of NSW will feature as the environment and models for the mythic gods, demigods and mortals of ancient mythology.
Ella is a theatre director, dramaturg and actor who grew up on the far south coast of N.S.W, later studying Creative Arts at the University of Melbourne. A founding member...
Judith Nangala Crispin is an award-winning poet, academic and visualartist of Indigenous and mixed descent. She has published twocollections of poetry and her verse novel...
David Hewitt, composer and percussionist, has been involved in new music and performance making for over 20 years. David is a founding member of Taikoz, a member of Synergy...
Tracy Mann is an Australian screen and stage actress. After appearing in a number of television series, she won an Australian Film Institute award in 1980 for her movie Hard...
Dr Lindy Hume AM is known for progressive creative leadership of Australian arts organisations and multi-arts festivals in major cities (Perth Festival, Sydney Festival) and...