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London Theatres Host Inaugural Festival of First Nations

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The first 'festival of First Nations' to hit the UK is taking place this spring, organised by intercultural, multi-media company Border Crossings. Origins (4 – 17 May) calls attention to the work of First Nations artists and about First Nations peoples (primarily the indigenous areas of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US).

The festival will display an array of creative works, ranging from theatre to film to stand-up comedy to educational workshops. A handful of productions representing artists from each region will grace London stages, screens and discussion halls this May.

Four internationally renowned productions will enjoy their UK debuts during the Origins festival. The Soho Theatre will hold the New Zealand musical comedy, Strange Resting Places , while Riverside Studios will host the remaining three plays— Almighty Voice and His Wife , Salvage and Windmill Baby —highlighting talent from Canada, the US and Australia, respectively.

Rob Mokaranka and Paolo Rotondo’s collaborative efforts led to their production of Strange Resting Places (4 -9 May), in which they also perform. Directed by Leo Gene Peter and presented by Taki Rua, Strange Resting Places draws inspiration from both Mokaranka and Rotondo’s own families’ memories from and roles in World War II and the Vietnam War. Combining English and Italian with Te Reo Maori and comedy and music with inventiveness, this play launches the theatre side of the two-week festival.

Canada’s turn in the spotlight comes at Riverside Studios with Daniel David Moses’ Almighty Voice and His Wife (5 – 10 May). First appearing onstage eighteen years ago, Moses’ play regains life through this presentation by Native Earth. Almighty Voice is set around a 19th century Saskatchewan Cree who, after killing a cow, is hunted to death. This production forces viewers to reconsider the Western view of First Nations people.

Continuing the festival at Riverside Studios is the US production of Diane Glancy’s Salvage (12 -17 May), presented by Native Voices at the Autry. Director Sheila Tousey brings to life the Cherokee writer’s story about the Native American culture as it struggles against extinction in today’s society. Salvage focuses on the power of family and beliefs after a catastrophic car accident leads one man’s family to danger. Robert Greygrass leads the cast in this production.

Closing out the festival is the internationally renowned Windmill Baby , written and directed by David Milroy and presented by Australia’s Yirra Yaakin. Rohanna Angus stars as Maymay in this one-woman production following an Aboriginal woman as she comes back home to the deserted Kimberley cattle station after half a century of absence. The play expresses ideas of love, life and loss while also calling attention to the racism that guides the indigenous identity.

Border Crossings, the driving force behind the festival, was founded in 1995 by artistic director Michael Walling to "create new intercultural, multi-media theatre in response to the contemporary globalized world".

The Origins festival also features the works of First Nations filmmakers through film screenings and discussions led by the artists. Visitors may also sit in on educational workshops, talks, comedies, storytelling and ceremonies.

- by Katie Blemler


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