MYTH and cultural and gender relationships are played out in a mix of theatre and dance as the Blue Room opens its 2016 season with Selkie, an ancient Celtic legend presented with fresh eyes.
Written by Finn O’Branagain it’s based on the myth of seals shedding their skins to become women: as the creatures played on the shore, fishermen would steal their skins to stop them returning to the sea, and force them into marriage.
“There are still people in Scotland and Ireland who claim to be descendants of a selkie,” producer Harriet Roberts says.
O’Branagain tapped into her Irish roots for her play.
“The idea of a strange woman from the ocean living amongst fishermen seemed magical and romantic when I was younger…but re-reading with an adult lens, critical engagement, and the growing discussion of domestic abuse, this fantastical faerie-creature that was captured and kept, now appeared to be a metaphor for keeping foreign and exoticised women captive as wives.”
Director Joe Lui, who hails from Singapore, explores the complexity of untangling cultural relationships, with a disturbing insight into how we can unknowingly repress, exploit and manipulate those we genuinely care for. “There is love in the equation, but love with no other option,” Roberts says.
Selkie is a blend of acting and dance, with Ella Hetherington playing the selkie, and Yilin Kong dancing the role, while Paul Grabovac and Kynan Hughes are the fisher. “It’s the first time Joe has used dance as an exploration of communication,” Roberts says.
Cherish Marrington’s set design and costume bring an otherworldliness to the production: “A very beautiful and rich aesthetic.”
The not-for-profit Blue Room Theatre has been around for more than 25 years, set up to foster creative talent and innovative theatre. The likes of Tim Minchin, Matthew Lutton, Kate Mulvany and Claire Hooper started their careers there.
“We are here to support new works and we love to train new artists,” Blue Room producer Susannah Day says. “Commercial success isn’t an imperative: “If it’s risky and experimental it’s completely fine with us–a full house is not an issue.”
Last year the organisation received a pot of money left over from the demise of Fremantle’s Deck Chair Theatre and ThinIce (which moved to Melbourne).
The $400,000 arts funding was put to good use with Loft, a one-off 20-month program supporting production from start to finish. For more information on Loft, or the new season of plays visit blueroom.org.au.
Selkie is on at the Blue Room Theatre, James Street, Northbridge April 12–30, tix $18–28.
by JENNY D’ANGER