Over the last four years ILBIJERRI Theatre Company has experienced a growing audience for our work. We believe this is reflective of a growing interest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander performance from audiences across the country. Internationally, there is clearly a market for Indigenous performance with many Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists touring their work.
This year with support from Market Development section of the Australia Council we began to investigate an international market for our work, through a program called International Indigenous Explorers. As part of this program we worked with Paul McGill (Maakan) to ask ourselves the difficult questions about our international touring aspirations, where we wanted to take our work and to what end. For ILBIJERRI, international touring is about being part of an international dialogue about what it means to be living in a colonised country. Unlike our non-Indigenous contemporaries who are touring their work internationally, what makes our work unique is the 40,000 plus years of history and culture that ties us to this country.
To launch our international touring, we felt Jack Charles v The Crown was a logical choice. The work premiered in 2010 at the Melbourne Festival and went on to have seasons at Belvoir, Brisbane Festival, Perth Festival and the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. This year with Performing Lines , the company presented the show in 27 regional venues across Australia over four months.
Jack Charles v The Crown brings to the stage the life story of Uncle Jack. Born on the Cummeragunja Station, Uncle Jack was a member of the Stolen Generation and grew up in boys homes in Box Hill, Melbourne. His story is one that traverses many key moments and policies in Australian Aboriginal race relations over the last century and provides a deeply personal insight into the effects of those policies. Uncle Jack’s story is not just powerful because of his charisma and talent but because it is one that resonates with audiences nationally and we believe internationally.
The International Indigenous Explorers program has enabled the company to take the time to think strategically about why we wanted to tour internationally, where we wanted to take our work and for a company whose artists and identity is so closely linked to this country, how and where we wanted to present ourselves on an international stage.
During Australia Performing Arts Market (APAM) last year in Adelaide we performed an excerpt of the show and garnered interest from a number of international presenters. One of these led to us being invited to take the show to the Barbican in February next year. This will be the first international tour for the company since our landmark show Stolen .
As Uncle Jack says in his show, ‘To and of the Crown I’ve spoken because by the Crown my life’s been much shaped, much determined’ and so it seems only fitting that to the Crown we will take the show.
By Brad Spolding, General Manager, ILBIJERRI Theatre Company.