In the wake of an unknown disaster, characters here emerge. The latest work from Rawcus asks of the audience “What propels us to get up after loss, after heartbreak, after failure?” In a statement that relates as much to the individual as it does to the current state of play for the global collective. Fifteen performers here surface from the aftermath, in the haunting SONG FOR A WEARY THROAT, as live music from the critically-acclaimed contemporary vocalists Invenio Singers is contrasted with disquieting, yet poetic imagery from Rawcus. The Melbourne Critique spoke with company director Kate Sulan.

This is a work talking about trauma and re-emrging from a place of catastrophe, but what is exactly does this entail? 

Its unspecified, the work hints at the possibility of it being anything, it could be personal, global or even a collective thing that has led to this moment. The question though is more about how we keep moving forward past this moment, and its a response to the personal events and the world at the moment. The work is poetic it’s not like you find out what exactly that ‘thing’ is at any point, it follows a logic that’s more emotional than linear or narrative.

Let’s talk about the Rawcus ensemble, and what the diversity of this company means and brings to the stage? 

The company is diverse, we have 15 performers, and when you see a Rawcus show, you get a variety of view points and you see different ways of being in the world and all this inevitably comes into the performance. The production itself represents a very eclectic group, and you get something really powerful when this is bought to the stage.

We’re a long-term ensemble, so we’ve been working together and making shows for a long time. I think there’s something that happens which is quite amazing when a group of people who are privileged to work with a group of people over a long period of time. There’s a shorthand that we have and a rigour that we have, but also a desire to push each other to new territories and discover new things together. I think that’s as important as the fact that we’re a group of people who have been involved in a long-term, artistic conversation – some of us for over nearly seventeen years now. We’re really trying to build something together.

What do you think art gives to the world at the moment? You’ve spoken about trauma and these events, which are nondescript in this work that you’re creating. What does art give to it and what role does art play in progressing the conversation?

I feel it can do a variety of things at different times. I know sometimes for me, when I go to art, when I’m in those moments and I see those points of recognition, I feel less alone, or it allows me the distance to understand something about the world that I couldn’t when I was inside it. It’s also a collective experience. You go and sit with a group of people and experience something together. That’s also quite a precious thing to do. With this work, we’re not trying to do anything or say anything. We’re not trying to go, ‘Hope looks like this,’ or, ‘You can keep going, if you just do this.’ I don’t think life works like that. I think life is complex and messy, and this work tries to speak to that. Different people have different experiences and different approaches and ways of dealing with it, but we’re all human, and that can be a beautiful and really difficult thing. I think the work tries to capture that as much as anything. There’s a lot of space for people to experience the work in different ways and however it works for them. We’re definitely not trying to go, ‘This is what you need to do’ or ‘This is what you need to think about.’ It’s not a call to arms. It’s an experience and a number of emotional states and meditation. There’s beauty as well as things that are really difficult as well.

Talking about the complexity within the artistic sense as well, you’re working with a variety of different mediums in this work, and one in particular is the music. Do you want to talk to us a little bit about the ensemble that you brought in to work with you in this project?

I’m working with these amazing singers called the Invenio Singers. They’re vocal improvisers and they’re incredible. They are absolutely amazing. They give voice to the emotional landscapes of the piece. We’ve been working together and we’ve built the work together. Interestingly, their rehearsal process and our process are quite similar in some ways. When we started to working together, we’d go, ‘These are some of the music scores we work with,’ and then they’d interpret it into voice, and then they’d tell us some of their vocal scores, and we’d interpret it into our bodies. So there’s actually a real synergy of how we make work together. Now we’re just kind of one ensemble. While we’re working with our bodies, they’re working with their voices. They’re really amazing and extraordinary singers.

I’m going to ask one question that I ask everyone: could you imagine a world without art?

Absolutely not.

What would it be like if that was reality?

I think it would be lonely. It would be an incredibly lonely place to be, because for me, art is a connecting force.


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Photo credit: Sarah Walker