Australian theatre group ensemble loin d'ici performs Rebecca Lister's latest work Ici for the first time at the Australia Arts Festival in Divonne, France, in 2012.
Two chairs, a string of sausages, a black dress and a small paper fan are all that are required to bring Ici to life. Plus Sian Prior, a classically trained opera singer and musician. And three very talented, experienced Australian actresses: Rebecca Lister,Lisa Male-Roberston and Margot Knight.
Ici, written by award winning playwright Rebecca specifically for the Australia Arts Festival, explores the lives of three very different women who would be surprised to find they have a desperate loneliness in common.
When I first spoke to Bronwyn, who is the coordinator of the Australian festival, she talked about the theme of the festival this year being place and belonging. So I thought I would write a piece based on the notion of ici, which means 'here.' The three pieces look at three different perspectives of what constitutes home.
The play was performed in English and French in honor of the bi-lingual flavor of the festival. And it seems that the theme was a common one to both cultures, despite the quintessential Australian setting. The audience were totally immersed as the characters slowly, through nuance and seemingly insignificant detail, revealed the desolation they felt.
They are three women who live in a central Australian mining town and they have different experiences of life there based on three different events that are loosely tied together. So one person has come to the town as a new person so she is very isolated and lonely. One person has lived there all her life and she feels it is her right to know everything about everyone and she feels very protective about her community. And the third person has married someone from that town and she believes that the isolation of the town causes people to keep secrets.
The three pieces have got little links and when you hear the third monologue, you realize that they all fit together.
The haunting sound of the clarinet both introduces and concludes each of the monologues and at the most poignant point of each woman's confession, the pure soprano voice of Sian Prior complements their wanting with songs of desire and loss. Rebecca said she included the music as a way to link the work.
We wanted to use French art songs because they are very old songs, very beautiful and in French and our musician Sian is a clarinet player and also a classically trained opera singer. This isn't opera that she is doing but she has the right voice for it and it was her suggestion that we go with French art songs because of their particular form of beauty and they are almost ethereal. And the work itself is little bit ethereal.The work has got a floaty element about it and the music seems to match that.
Sian had the opportunity to guage public reaction throughout the performance.
I really thought people seemed to be really engaged last night. I had the luxury of being able to watch them. Certainly in the last one, I could see people wiping the tears from their eyes and I could hear few sniffles. They were totally engaged and following the story
When asked about the festival, Sian was full of praise. I think it is absolutely incredible. I can't believe I'm here. All tributes to Bronwyn for getting this thing off the ground and inviting so many interesting people