The butterfly of memory

Aurelian (Metro Arts)

Metro Arts, Sue Benner Theatre

September 7 – 15

At its core, “Aurelian” is an intimate show, developed over a matter of years in response to Director Genevieve Trace’s loss of her sister.  This personal story is contextualised within those of similarly afflicted characters, with a view to illustrating how the nature of grief changes over time. Indeed, the show is based on stolen and borrowed Burdiekin stories of lost loved ones as, through the use of verbatim theatre, Trace explores the construction of memory through reflections on what has passed. Though the work has at its basis the stories collected from residents in her home town of Ayr, it transcends these in its exploration of the human need to remember with clarity as part of the construction of identity. Unfortunately, this is not truly realised until the closing monologue, which weaves together the show’s various threads and approaches to ground them in poetic pondering. Prior to this, the confused approach is almost to the point of narrative chaos.

Of credit to the AV designer Robert Millett, the array of multimedia projections and layered lighting adds ongoing interest, complemented by the muted visual tones of the set design. The use of backlit screens provides powerful dramatic contrasts and the authentic projections of Burdekin landscapes capture the reality of regional Queensland’s locations, from its rolling fields of cane to suburban housing normality. More than this, however, they provide a visual metaphor of the nature of memory flashing back in circular waves, sometimes in response to the most minor of details. In particular, the sight and sounds of the ironically North Queensland September spectacle of a cane fire and rain of ash, provides an evocative experience, punctuated by the harsh cyclone warning signal so familiar to those of NQ heritage.

“Aurelian” comes from a term now lost to language that describes one who captures butterflies. In terms of the show’s attempt to present memories like butterflies fluttering the mind, this is an apt title and it is certainly a thought-provoking premise. To realise its potential and engage the audience consistently, however, it perhaps needs a little more consideration.

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