Telling Illawarra’s Story

Community & Co-design
by Mark

Landscape with Monsters was recently performed at Wollongong’s Merrigong Theatre by Brisbane company, Circa. I saw the show and, as an architect, my attention was caught by the Director Yaron Lifschitz’s driving idea for the performance: how the curves of the human body meet with the right angles of the built environment. This resonated because, on a daily basis, I reconcile the very organic needs of human beings with the design of a hard-edged physical environment.

The show was made for, and about, the Illawarra. Lifschitz’s goal with the production was to see it as a response to the region in transformation. “We dig, we mine, we build, we manufacture. As industries evolve great natural beauty meets the scars of our activities. The work aimed to explore how the landscape is imprinted on our bodies and how we carry it with us.” Merrigong CEO, Simon Hinton added, “We were interested in exploring the scars – both on the landscape and on the community – of the city’s emergence from its industrial heyday.”


Site visit to the Steel Works – Image courtesy of Circa

The setting for the show was an industrial wasteland, exploring the emotional highs and lows of post-industrial communities faced with uncertainty and change. Circa’s acrobats spent a 2-week creative development period in Wollongong, collaborating with local artists and had a site visit to the steel works.

Some of the Illawarra’s most creative minds – Daryl Wallis, the sound designer, and Toby Knyvett, the lighting designer – were key to making this work a success. The two artists both had a strong understanding of the local environment as well as connections to the community. This creative work is testimony to the benefits of using local skills to complement imported expertise.

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On stage – Image courtesy of Circa

While the performance was a great demonstration of the acrobats’ strength and athletic prowess, the story line, if indeed there was one, was not easily discerned. Could this be symptomatic of our culture as we struggle to capture a coherent ‘narrative’ for the Illawarra? It could be that the challenge in crafting a single story about our region is because of the multi-faceted kaleidoscope created by our rich diversity!

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