Bamboo from series In Between by Julia Fullerton-Batten

Bamboo from series In Between by Julia Fullerton-Batten

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.

Anne Carsen

about GRACE/FURY

Grace/Fury is an ambitious community-based performance project for a large cast of (mostly) female participants of all ages and all abilities. The work will be developed with communities in the South Coast of NSW for performance in 2026. The 100+ members of the Grace/Fury performance cohort will span 8 decades – from schoolchildren to seniors – with community participants side-by-side with leading professional artists, musicians and actors.

Grace/Fury is based on the myth of Demeter and Persephone, most often told as a benign allegory for the cycle of the seasons or a story of a mother’s love for her daughter. The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, composed in the 7th century BC, tells of the rape and abduction of the teenage Persephone by her uncle Hades and the ferocious, earth-scorching pursuit undertaken by her grief-stricken mother Demeter.

Judith Nangala Crispin’s searing new version of the epic poem gives a new voice to Demeter’s search for her missing daughter, locating the story in a coastal community in contemporary regional Australia.

the myth of Demeter and Persephone

Demeter – Goddess of agriculture and fertility – is outraged when she learns of her daughter Persephone’s rape and abduction by Hades. Grief-stricken Demeter roams the world in fury, laying waste to the Earth’s crops, holding the Gods to ransom in defiance of their complicity in the violation. Eventually, seeing the mortals’ starvation, Zeus concedes to Demeter’s demands. He orders Hades to return Persephone to her mother – but only for part of each year.

We recognise these ancient myths as extraordinary, spanning mortality and immortality, the natural world, self-attainment, love and fear, transformation, beauty and desire. Grace/Fury seeks a contemporary physical expression for the mythic archetypes and icons that underpin these stories. 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? Who are the graces, furies, sirens, muses, gods and demigods now? How do they move in our world?

Development will include discussions with local First Nations community to develop local narratives, protocols and synergies. Judith Nangala Crispin traces her ancestry to the Bpangerang people of North-Eastern Victoria and the NSW Riverina, but now lives in Braidwood on Yuin Country. Her poem is grounded in respectful dialogue with local First Nations women storytellers to determine resonances, parallels and synergies between Greek myths and, as can be seen in these excerpts, their allegorical counterparts from this place.

I dreamed Picasso’s minotaur crouched on the headland, overlooking the dunes. One arm shades his eyes from ocean-glare.

The other girls lift in salt swell, beyond the spilling waves. And in this dream, Persephone leaves them—crossing foredunes of pig face and spinifex, along the estuary’s line toward the wharf.

She finds seahorses and anemones between pylons encrusted with oyster shells. And then she sees it—a starfish, an undulating flower, like a cobra-dance underneath the wharf. It draws her like a baited hook, and he follows.

The stingrays and the moon and the bay will not judge him.

Excerpt from Sting in the Moon’s Tail – text for Grace/Fury by Judith Nangala Crispin

why now?

Grace/Fury is a powerhouse whole-of-community response to the seemingly timeless outrage of male violence against women and girls. It is created in the context of tens of thousands of people rallying in cities and regional centres around Australia in 2024 to share their fury at the brutal statistics outlined in the foreword to the government’s National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children:

Violence against women and children is a problem of epidemic proportions in Australia. One in 3 women has experienced physical violence since the age of 15, and one in 5 has experienced sexual violence. In 2021, girls aged 10 to 17 made up 42% of female sexual assault victims. (May 2024)

No Australian community, regional or metropolitan, has been spared from this wreckage. In the Bega Valley deep scars remain in this community’s psyche. Coastal sites still stir memories of decades-long-ago episodes of male violence and criminality on women and girls. Families, friends, teachers and neighbours are all affected by this darkness.

Grace/Fury seeks to stare down this darkness by creating an empowering, defiant celebration of female strength and radiance set in our landscapes and times, made by our community. We believe that:

• By sharing this empowering, defiant celebration with the world, local artists and musicians can initiate community conversations.

• By appropriating this ancient story of Demeter and Persephone and making something new and beautiful, something shining, brilliant and equally timeless, we can reclaim the myth’s narrative power and imagery.

• By reframing the myth as something we recognise in daily life, artists and audiences can empathise more deeply with the story.

• By placing a large part of the storytelling leadership in the hands of young people, we share optimism in a stronger future.

I kept her room as she left it – Madonna posters blu-tacked to the wall over a bed crammed with soft toys. I wore her kimono around the house for weeks, wept in bars and cafes, bus stops, petrol stations, and supermarket checkouts.
Have to find a way to be stronger. If I put on lipstick— I will feel normal.

Excerpt from Sting in the Moon’s Tale text for Grace/Fury by Judith Nangala Crispin

Here are some media links for context:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2024-04-28/rally-protest-gender-based-violence-against-women/103777168
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2024/apr/26/australia-violence-against-women-rallies-what-were-you-wearing-sydney-adelaide-newcastle-ballarat
https://www.illawarramercury.com.au/story/8606164/three-new-regional-towns-added-to-anti-violence-rallies-line-up/
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-68915018
https://edition.cnn.com/2024/04/29/australia/australia-women-gendered-violence-intl-hnk/index.html

teenagers will lead the way

Teenage girls will lead the charge in Grace/Fury. FLING, Bega’s youth physical theatre company, whose edgy teenage energy is an inspirational driving force for Grace/Fury and key collaborators in this work. The FLING cohort will be joined by dozens more female singers, actors, percussionists and musicians of all ages will create a large-scale, mobile ‘Greek Chorus’ of 100+ performers, inspired by antipatriarchal heroines, the #metoo global protest movements and even the Matildas, responding to the Demeter and Persephone story in a ritual embodiment of female rage, power and celebration.

In his popular Percy Jackson books and movies, Rick Riordan uses Greek myths to explain complexity, observing that American 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.

creative development: making the work

2023

  • Work on Grace/Fury commences in November 2023. Lindy Hume and Gabby Rose conducted a three-session exploration with 5 teenage performers from FLING Physical Theatre who were invited to explore movement and storytelling modes to build a rhythmic travelling movement sequence in response to text excerpts from The Furies, from the Oresteia by Aeschylus (first performed in 458 BC).
  • Percussionist/composer David Hewitt created/recorded a short sequence for the FLING sessions, beginning the process of merging text and percussion underscore.
  • Creative team identified

2024

  • Braidwood-based poet Judith Nangala Crispin commissioned to write a new version of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. Poem is delivered in March.
  • Nationally recognised (now Tanja-based) actor Tracy Mann as Demeter records Nangala Crispin’s poem. The recording will be accompanied by a draft underscore by David Hewitt and used for rehearsals in the community setting throughout 2024/25
  • Initial meetings of co-creators Ella Caldwell and Lindy Hume in Melbourne (March) and in Tathra (July); and zoom discussions with Gabby Rose from FLING about community engagement processes to ensure young people are empowered at the centre of the creative process for Grace/Fury.
  • Local stories will feed into the narrative wherever it is performed. Partnership with Bega Headspace to ensure mental health support systems are built into the project.
  • Initial location hunting. Grace/Fury will be a site-specific performance outdoor experience. Current thinking is that the Tathra Headland and Wharf are possible sites for a performance that moves between several dramatic performance locations.

2025

  • January – gathering of whole creative team cohort in Bega for FLING performance.
  • Video and photographs created for Grace/Fury communications/community discussions.
  • Commissioning/development of percussion score by David Hewitt.
  • Designer approached.
  • January to April – Development of language for mobile ‘Greek Chorus’ community includes

Bega women’s choir
Connecting to local schools’ drama departments
Stonewave Taiko

  • July – (TBC). One week intensive at Tathra Hotel Headland Theatre and FLING studio Bega for full creative team and work-in-progress for all community participants as part of Crimson Rosella Winter Residency. Site and design finalised. Documentation.
  • July-December – preparations for production and community engagement focus.
  • December (TBC) – 2 weeks pre-production period for all participants

2026

  • January (TBC) – 2 weeks rehearsals, production and 3 performances of Grace/Fury

 

GRACE/FURY team

Kristina Chan

Kristina Chan

Kristina Chan is an award-winning choreographer, dancer and teacher based on Biripi Country in New South Wales. Her career has seen her perform in Australia, Canada, Israel,...

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Ella Caldwell

Ella Caldwell

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...

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David Hewitt

David Hewitt

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...

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