Multi-layered, multi-faceted thoughtful work, full of nuance and challenging physicality.
Image: Marshall Stay
Densely packed with concepts, executed with skill, Arteries by Ancestry is a challenging piece of disjointed and abstract physical theatre, providing each spectator the opportunity to assemble their individually experienced impressions.
In a time and place slightly removed from the here and now, Avery’s ancestors are an illustrious line of high-profile environmentalist leaders. In the footsteps of his father and grandfather, he is raised to tower at the head of society, deliver thundering speeches and set a shining example for society. His father’s demands are echoed by his own celebrity from being born into the family, setting him firmly on the prescribed path. Young Avery meets beautiful medical student Sebastian, sharing their dreams in intimate moments of young love. Avery’s father demands obedience and hypermasculine displays of “strength” from his son, cutting him off from Sebastian. After years apart, each pursuing their separate careers, Avery attends a medical check-up. In the midst of their reunion, Sebastian confronts Avery with his denial of his hopes and dreams, discovering a hidden family weakness inherited with the bombastic displays of “strength”.
Performed as a series of independent and fragmented moments, the narrative is secondary to the displays of vulnerability, anger and expectation that cleave the characters together and rend them apart. Sebastian’s persevering strength of character, expressed through his low key rejection of public accolades in his dedication to vocation, and Avery’s father’s spotlit displays of thundering oration, are sublimated in Avery’s embrace of his unique physical poise. Noah Jimmy (Avery) thrills with his performance combining dance, gymnastic strength, agility and flexibility, working with the music, lighting and declamations to capture the contradictions of his character. Haydon Wilson cuts between every other character, switching between quiet solidity to ranting demands between roles, never missing a beat while providing an audience within the performance to Jimmy’s awesome physicality. Together their displays of shared emotional connection and vulnerability overturn theatrical stereotypes of homosexual attraction and relationships in a natural and haunting way.
Director James MacMillan contrasts the hypnotic movement of Jimmy’s performance with dense layers of prose poetry by both actors, the scripted words tumbling over each other in a rich flow of ideas combining facts, exhortations and emotions. The rapid delivery of repeated motifs eventually become meaningless except as a fluid flow of sound, consonants interrupting the stacks of vowels as each character repeats and overlaps the irresistible torrent of words in another form of expression in another impressive technical dimension to Arteries by Ancestry. The sound design by Alex & Yell works closely with the action and Rhiannon Petersen’s lighting design to create distinct separations of time, place and mood in the deceptively simple stark and narrow set, designed by Sally Phipps.
Despite all key creatives being early in their careers, Arteries by Ancestry leaves one grasping for further meanings that seem tantalisingly close, but slightly beyond the reach of any single audience member, in a presentation delivered with impressive technical expertise.
4 stars out of 5
Arteries by Ancestry
Presented by FUGUE
Director: James McMillan
Producer: Samantha Maclean
Movement Mentor: Rachel Arianne Ogle
Sound Designer: Alex & Yell
Lighting Designer: Rhiannon Petersen
Stage Designer: Sally Phipps
Dramaturg: Samantha Chester
Stage Manager: Sally Davies
Publicity & Marketing: Jessica Russell
Devised & Performed by Noah Jimmy and Haydon Wilson
The Blue Room Theatre, Perth Cultural Centre
15 August 2017 – 2 September 2017
First published on
What the stars mean?
- Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
- Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
- Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
- Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
- Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
- Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
- Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
- One star: Awful, to be avoided
- Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level