Theatrical sweets unwrapped at the Sydney Opera House
Unpacked is a bi-annual series of all kinds of bites from independent, diverse and multidisciplinary creators presented by the Sydney Opera House.
The program from October to November is a selection of contemporary Australian works responding to our rapidly changing world, as well as beautifully crafted and compelling performance art, a kind of ‘unplugged theatre’ that is subversive, unapologetically – adjectives that also describe two offers this season: Takatapui by Daley Rangi (they) and Queer as flow by Stace Callaghan (they).
Rangi is a Maori antidisciplinary artist. Their work, Takatapui, does not conform to any genre and cannot be categorized by subject. This is an enhanced monologue that explores the events of one particular night Rangi experienced around 10 years ago, essentially unpacking a sexual assault.
Trauma and memory
“It’s not the subject of the work, it’s one of the events that happened on the night, but the whole work unpacks different parts of an evening and how queermisia, homophobia, transphobia, racism – all of these things can contribute to violence being staged on a body,” Rangi says.
The story is told in five movements: getting ready at home; on a train heading for the city; at the restaurant on the date; steer in a taxi home; aggression, escape and how to deal with it. It’s an amalgamation of truth and fiction, with facts grotesquely twisted using hallucinatory elements.
“It’s kind of about how trauma and memory can be both friends and enemies; how things you remember in a way may not be…” Rangi says, emphasizing that it’s not so much about details as How? ‘Or’ What you remember the events. Rangi feels they’re in a safe place now and can talk about this heartbreaking incident, but he’s also aware of the people in the audience.
“I treat these traumatic events gently but honestly. […] But also, for me, the work is very colorful, bright, light and funny – like, I wrote the work specifically with a lot of humor and a kind of charisma.
“Gender is always a border”
On stage, Rangi uses a loop pedal, vocal processor, and microphone to create, giving them plenty of scope and variety for world building.
“So I kind of tell the story using a multitude of voices and sounds and the kinds of cavernous, mountainous, looping soundscapes that I create,” Rangi explains. “The way I describe it, it’s kind of a storm of history and its […] I could almost do the show in the dark and it would work.
It would be a shame for Rangi to perform in the dark because they are wearing a very high pair of leather heels. They also feel that being visible gives them a better and warmer connection with the public.
Rangi hails from Perth and is thrilled to perform at the Sydney Opera House Studio, not least because it has 18 speakers. They like it Unpacked program, which shows that marginalized artists can take up space. They hope Takatapui contributes to societal change.
“Gender is always a boundary, not only within the wider community, but also in our own communities. I think we still don’t know how to let people be themselves.
Queer as flow
In Queer As Flux, Multi-award winning screenwriter and performer Stace Callaghan and director Leah Mercer examine how everything is always in a state of ebb and flow.
“The show is about normalizing change and normalizing what seems like a very complex thing for people to understand in terms of gender transition,” says Callaghan, “to help people recognize that we all do it all the time. time. All species do – it’s actually a part of life. Life continues to evolve and change form. That’s how we survive.
Callaghan’s stage character is a Fairy Godmother drag queen called Polly Tickle, who is a blacksmith with a sharp mind. The content of their show can be confrontational and the use of humor helps present it in an uplifting and less threatening way.
“I talk about humor as a palatable weapon…it’s both disarming and disarming. So, disarm as in: “lower your weapons, there’s nothing to fight here”, and disarm as in: “take off your breastplate…I want this to open your heart”.
Callaghan shares her personal journey through various forms of transition, especially gender transition.
“For me, it’s really about showing the story of a person who has their share of challenges and obstacles; a lot of – I won’t say it – but a lot of transitional moments if you will.
An important aspect of the show is acknowledging the crucial but mostly uncredited role that trans people have always played in queer activism within the larger community.
“It’s really honoring what I call our transceivers, and that’s part of the story – and also our not-so-weird ancestors and acknowledging that… who I am is a conglomeration of all these brave people who preceded.”
Callaghan is delighted and amazed to play Queer as flow as a member of Unpacked program. Twenty-one years ago they did a show called when i was a boy for Mardi Gras. It was held in the modest dimensions of the Espace Performance. They could never have imagined putting on a show like Queer as flow in the iconic Sydney Opera House. They feel it is valuable to be able to bring a show and message like this to a wider audience.
Callaghan describes their show’s returns in other cities as extraordinary.
“Like, people after the Brisbane show, everyone was coming out upset and in tears, but uplifted, like really moved. People came out and said they had really changed.
They promise that and more for Sydney.
“It will be a fun night.”
To find out more, visit sydneyoperahouse.com