SHORE in Narrm ESSAY by Liza Dezfouli

Reflections on my involvement with SHORE

By Liza Dezfouli

Auditions to perform in SHORE in Narrm involved some walking slowly and consciously around a room. My kind of show!

I’m entranced by creator Emily Johnson, whose physicality makes her look like she’s dancing even when she’s not.

I can’t hear everything Emily says; she’s softly spoken and I’m deaf in my right ear. Soon this doesn’t matter as dear cast members Jugy and Marija Feijoa appoint themselves as my Personal Clarifiers. I appoint myself a performance role lacking in overt responsibility so I can enjoy giving myself over to the currents and eddies shifting us along. The production seems not so much to be devised as enticed into existence, with Emily and Margo, in part, coaxing something to arise organically out of the fact of the group, a process dependent on our collective presence.

Standing in one spot for chunks of time, stillness and body-consciousness, make me aware of small aches I’m carrying, mostly in my right shoulder. I’m thankful that I’m not in any significant pain, that I’m able to be part of this.

Emily talks about us ‘being trees,’ in that trees don’t appear to move much but are very much there. Shore in Narrm is the name Emily has given to a tree in Royal Park, around which the ritualized outdoor part of the show revolves. I recall certain trees from my childhood spent in the native bushland of west Auckland, in New Zealand. As children we learnt about Māori spiritual traditions of experiencing and representing the natural world– SHORE in Narrm is informed by a similar awareness of connection to the environment, is aligned with Māori ways of ‘being in country,’ you could say. Perhaps Catalyst will create a show in Aotearoa/New Zealand one day.

The theatre part of the performance begins with our slow somewhat random entrance from the Arts House foyer into the performance space – a welcome thing as I’m tired from walking to and back from Royal Park and from the walking and running we did there. I get fitter over the fortnight. Our group warm-up on opening night, the circle showering energy over one individual, works magic on tiredness.

Standing with my back to the audience in the first segment of the show means missing out on watching Maylene as she sings so beautifully. Am so enjoying the musical part of things – hearing others sing and singing myself. Part of the journey from the outdoor element of SHORE involves pausing under another tree to sing a short song in Language, taught to us by an indigenous woman, Isobel. Margo reminds us that the words of the song are more than mere syllables, we tell a story about a crow and the origins of the black swan.

In the park Emily talks about the walk back to Arts House: we follow the route of one of Melbourne’s lost waterways, once known as Williams Creek, which now flows invisibly as a storm-water drain under Elizabeth St. We walk past the red geraniums she mentioned, growing in the front garden of a terrace house. A sizeable group of people making its way in silence along the streets at night would have looked extremely ‘culty’ to an observer but it was a rare and delightful experience to be part of.

Tiny moments are what this show means to me, homage to simply being alive and conscious, of the pleasure of sentience and in small joyful memories. In the park Emily tells a story and wonders how much she has forgotten, and I, along with everyone present, ask myself the same question.

There’s a meditative, therapeutic element in what we’re doing; I’ve become less anxious in my time outside of SHORE, I’m breathing more deeply. Most of the time I mentally document whatever I’m going through, constantly finding words in my head when I experience something in order to talk or write about it later. Now, since SHORE, I’m conscious of not putting sensations or events into language, instead cultivating the practice of letting my experiences be. To silently notice is sufficient and good and I’m more likely to remember things, to more fully appreciate the thingness of things.