Vital signs of theatrical life

Backbone 2high Festival: Vital Signs

Metro Arts

January 15 – 17

As an open exploration of arts, science and ideas, the 2016 Backbone 2high Festival: Vital Signs is not only diverse but an embodiment of the adage ‘something for everyone’. From installations to conversations, the festival delves into the worlds of music, performance, feminism and science with creative, entertaining and thought-provoking artists’ works.


As always, The Light Ensemble present an exuberant, endearing performance of the appropriately named “Joyride”, featuring many of the familiar faces from the ensemble, which aims to celebrate the artistic voice of young people with a disability. Its loosely-theme narrative begins with the end of the Year 12 and contemplation of the question ‘what now’, allowing for lots of humour both in a Schoolies party dance off and then in the reality (or more accurately reality tv) of life three years later. The story includes a light-hearted series of random events including a magic kebab, a love trust with Delta Goodrem and what is known as the infamous chicken salt incident, all filling the audience with laughter and smiles. Like audience members, theatre practitioners are not homogeneous and it is wonderful to see the group not only being given a platform such as this at which to perform, but to be able to do so to such a plentiful and supportive audience.

light ensemble

“Aunties Talkin’” by Digi Youth Arts is as its name describes. At a community centre meeting a group of three grandmothers talk about friends and family passed and the problems of young people… the ebb and flow of life. Mothers may know best but grandmothers apparently know everything as the play, created with an Indigenous grandmothers’ group, shows, for can there be any better mantra than ‘growing old doesn’t have to be boring; it is like any other age… you just need to take care of yourself’. The show contains not only words of wisdom but some full of fun musical numbers from its wonderful women, making it ripe for future, further development.

A cynic might say that no independent theatre festival is complete without some undergraduate-style angst. Enter “Mess”, which tells the story of friends Lana (Lana Bellingham-Young) and Eloise (Eloise Fisher) and their perceived meaningless lives as means of examining issues of gender. It is when obnoxious, self-absorbed Eloise is out of the scene, however, that it is at its most effective with some poignant moments and thoughtful lines about relationships in conversation between Lana and her girlfriend (Ashleigh Djokic), aside from any issues of sexuality. Articulate at times, but also with the perhaps pre-requisite swearing to make it ‘art’, the show at least ends on hopeful note as the duo looks forward to happier days.


Joy is a descriptor to sum up both the themes and atmosphere of the festival with circus performances and live music occupying the outdoor stage in its Metro Arts laneway and carpark, hidden as contrast amongst the overlooking skyscrapes of the CBD. And Brendan MacClean’s intimate show is an appropriate final night highlight, not only for those lucky enough to have seen him wow with Marcia Hines in “Velvet” at the this year’s Brisbane Festival.


2high is casual event whose family and friends audiences of phones out taking flash photos and performers competing with crying children won’t necessarily suit theatre traditionalist tastes, but it occupies a valuable place in the local theatre landscape due to the opportunity it provides for works in progress to be seen, new ideas to be celebrated and standout performances to be showcased (such as Lana Bellingham-Young in “Mess” #justsaying), all essential to our city’s ongoing artistic vitality.

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