D.I.V.E. Theatre is a Sunshine Coast collective in its third year of artmaking, yet their latest work Exodus displays a wisdom and artistic maturity beyond the burgeoning company’s years. A site-specific documentary piece, the work is compiled from the art of and interviews with 50 migrants from 25 countries. This material is then distilled into a 50-minute declaration of uncompromising presence made through dance, music, and short scenes.
Exodus opens on a small pier that has been transformed into a boat. Here a group of young women (Tamara Lea Collins, Lucia Perea Castillo, Ella Riley) speak of their hope for the bright future they believe coming to Australia will provide them. The rest of the piece speaks of how that hope, while valid, was misplaced and uninformed by the intensely segregationist nature of Australian culture and legislation. From the very offset I could not help but think of the narrative of immigration that binds my own family to this country and the struggles they endured in order to ensure their and by extension my prosperity. They were so present in my mind and heart that I closed my eyes at one point and gave them a silent word of thanks. I wasn’t lucky enough to meet the members of my family that made the journey to Australia and so this work made me feel close to them in a way I hadn’t before. This closeness is something I am truly grateful to D.I.V.E. for catalysing.
This work is not a lesson in immigration history or government policy it is a testimony of survival and a celebration of the richness that migrants provide to the cultural landscape of Australia. Seeing migrant stories told by migrants or their direct descendants in a way that services us rather than Anglo-Australia was a near spiritual experience. One enhanced by the echoing of the performers’ voices off the cityscape behind us and the sight of the ocean unfolding before us. A number of audience members, myself included, became emotional to the point of tears at this display of untainted truth-telling.
Once the work concluded the performers and production team (Ceasar Genaro, Priscila Da Cunha) engaged in various discussions with the show’s attendees. Due to my having to begin a three-hour migration back to Brisbane City I had to depart quite quickly after chatting with the creatives. However, as I left Cotton Tree Park I came across a white feather; something recognised in spiritual circles as a sign your ancestors are with you. For me this represented them acknowledging my gratitude and promising me that our never having met does not eliminate the closeness being family guarantees.