Dust: An Educational Collaboration
A review of the theatre performance Dust, featuring Mark Seymour.
Author: Samantha O’Connor, AussieTheatre.
Date: 13 December 2013.
In association with the Brisbane Powerhouse, Hubcap productions presents Dust to Queensland audiences.
This collaborative piece brings together theatre, film and music to tell the story of asbestos in Australian history and how it has affected the lives of those exposed to it. Starring composer and front man of Hunters and Collectors Mark Seymour, Dust takes audiences on an educational and emotional journey through the (not so far off) past.
As audience members entered through the doors of Dust, it was clear this wasn’t your conventional theatre production. There was no seating and the audience made their way through to a clear space wondering about what was to come. Rock singer Mark Seymour and presenter/actor Therese Collie then took to the stage setting the scene with fast paced anecdotes and quick skits, with child actors outlining a brief history of asbestos use in Australia.
Director Donna Jackson’s passion for storytelling was obvious, with small sideshow performances set up around the theatre, including an ‘asbestos vortex’ with enough seats for an intimate viewing of each ‘mini-show’. From builders and miners, mothers and children, as well as lawyers offering legal advise, the message was clear: asbestos has affected a great many Australians and its repercussions have been fatal.
When not moving through the interactive stands, Seymour led musical segments on the main stage, joined by the Brisbane Combined Unions Choir. The songs, written by Seymour, were inspired by asbestos related suffering and had an strong undertone of community spirit. One stand out segment was the musical dance piece that saw a dancer jump out from a giant Kent cigarettes box, a parody of its once marketed carcinogenic asbestos filters. The second half of the show saw the audience seated, watching a story of corporate greed unravel in which the values of James Hardie, the Australian company that manufactured asbestos products,were contrasted with the experiences the victims of asbestosis.
A large cast and crew were involved in this production, underlining the ‘community’ message of the performance. Mark Seymour’s musical compositions were captivating. Young actor Libby Schmidt was lovely as the daughter of an asbestos victim and Sally Mullooly performed a bewitching ‘Bulgarian chant”. Lighting designer Phil Lethlean deserves a mention for his display; particularly the way in which he arranged lights to look like snowflakes in “Legend of a Snowman”.
Dust was as entertaining as it was educational. For example, did you know asbestos was also once in play-dough and toothpaste? The piece celebrated the spirit of Australians and relayed a message of remembrance and hope to its audience.
Although it has just finished running at Brisbane’s Powerhouse, this exciting and original piece is sure to generate attention wherever it travels, Australia-wide.