Of Longing and Belonging

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Of Longing and Belonging

Western Edge Youth Arts have crafted themselves a very esteemed reputation through constantly putting on cutting edge and socially relevant theatre spectacles, with their upcoming double feature ‘Of Longing’ and ‘Belonging’ adding to their list of high quality productions.

“The first show is called ‘Belonging’, which Western Edge Youth Arts have created with Geelong’s first ever home-grown, predominately African Theatre Company,” director Dave Kelman says.

“It’s the story of a group of diverse African young refugees, who meet in a town that’s roughly based on Nairobi. One of them has heard of this place called Geelong, so they start to speculate what life might be like in Geelong. It’s a comedy about Africa, racism, and cultural difference and about the changing identity of the city of Geelong.

“Of Longing, is an entirely contemporary reinterpretation of Homers’ The Odyssey. Again, it’s very Geelong focused. It’s created by a group of young people, who are about 17 years old from East Geelong. It reflects the concerns of their community, it talks about youth discrimination, about unemployment and it tells the story of the journey back to Geelong of a young man who has been a soldier in Afghanistan and his mixed feelings about coming home to the city.”

Both shows have taken months and months of preparation, and according to Dave the merit actually lies with the young people comprising the ensemble, “Something that’s important to understand is that these works have been authentically created by these young people. It’s not as if I have written them and asked them to perform – our participants are from Geelong. The African crew… were born overseas but have lived here for a number of years. This is their town, and they are talking about their experience.”

Naturally, the stories have a personal element, and help tell the story of what these young people have experienced through the use of sharp dialogue and physical comedy.

“[The shows] will shed light on what it’s like to be a refugee in a new country and the experiences and expectations you go through. And [then] the difference between expectations and reality,” cast member Craig Gunguta says.

Whilst both shows cover a broader story worldwide, they both ultimately revolve around Geelong.

“Geelong is changing from what was really perceived as quite a working class, heavy industry city that revolved around its footy club and transforming into a global city that’s transitioning its economy,” Dave says.

“I feel it also needs to transform its image of itself and that’s the role of culture; to tell different stories about what it means to be part of Geelong, so we can reinvent the city for a new age. So that would be the underlying intention, to embrace a greater complexity.”

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For Craig, it’s also about helping strengthen the connection between those born in Geelong and those who are knew to calling it home.

“Just to remember that we are all different but we are all human. We deserve to be loved,” Craig says.

With the productions incorporating tales of refugees, racial vilification and cultural diversity, they convey certain underlying political messages throughout the shows.

“I think the political nature of our work comes out of the demographics that we work with. We work with communities who are to some extent marginalised. We work with communities who have things to say. So yes, there is quite a lot of politics in Belonging, and none of them are mine. The young people talk about the statements they want to make. Theatre is not a slogan; it’s a complex beginning of ideas. Theatre is about ideas and politics and I think that is an important thing to put out there,” Dave says.

The performances will also be concluded by a community forum, allowing members of the audience to converse with members of the production about global relevance. The show will be performed at the Courthouse Youth Arts on May 12 & 13. Tickets can be purchased from courthouse.org.au.

Written by Alex Callan

Images: Nicola Dracoulis

When & Where: Courthouse Youth Arts, Geelong – May 12 & 13