On Sunday night there was great excitement at the Fringe World Awards when REST, a joint production between the National Trust of Australia and the WA Youth Theatre Company (WAYTCo) received three awards.
Throughout the season REST has received great reviews. Audiences have been full of praise for the opportunity to experience this moving and powerful performance.
REST is a site specific, promenade semi interactive theatre performance created, written and performed at East Perth Cemeteries during Fringe World 2019. This night time work provided opportunities for a unique immersive experience, an adventure that explored the seemingly forbidden and gave intimate access to an authentic place made even more real with stories shared via a memorable delivery.
REST asks audiences to consider their relationship to life and notions of permanence and the fragility of life by comparing their own experience with that of the lives of the people connected to the East Perth Cemeteries before, during and after its operation as Perth’s first burial ground from 1829 to 1899.
The stories of some of the 10,000 people buried at the Cemeteries are shared by the cast one on one with the audience. These stories have been crafted by the cast of almost 30 WAYTCo performers and were selected by them for their personal and contemporary relevance. Strong and emotive connections are made between the past and the present moving some people to tears and leaving others to question their own opinions and attitudes.
The connections of Aboriginal people to the land on which the Cemeteries are situated is a thread that runs throughout the show. There is a special focus on the gravesite of Tommy Dower, the only Aboriginal person at East Perth Cemeteries to have a marked grave.
“What is it like to rest momentarily in a place of eternal rest?” is a question asked before the audience is invited to lie down on stretchers in the middle of the East Perth Cemeteries at night. Looking up at the star filled sky it provides an opportunity to ponder and consider one’s place in the universe.
A review by Richard Watts in ArtsHub has described REST as:
Meticulously researched and confidently staged, this evocative and compelling production encourages us to remember those interred within the cemetery but also to remember those who were deemed unworthy of burial. It brings history to life in a sensitive and engaging manner while simultaneously asking audience members to reflect on our own place in the world and how we might hope to be remembered when we’re gone.
This project was underpinned by the National Trust’s heritage expertise and knowledge of this significant heritage place. Research content provided by the National Trust gave Director James Berlyn plenty of material to work with. In a highly collaborative process, professional actors and the emerging performers from WAYTCo tested ideas and concepts and worked with soundscape and lighting specialists to develop an immersive audience experience.
The National Trust is thrilled with the outcomes of REST. Already it has attracted new and younger audiences to the Cemeteries. For audiences it has reinforced the reasons why this heritage place is significant and should be valued.
REST was made possible through the support of Fringe World and funding partners the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries and the City of Perth.
The awards received were:
- Theatre Award (presented by Perth Theatre Trust)
- The West Australian Arts Editor Award (presented by the West Australian)
- The Martin Sims Award (presented by Fringe World)
The Martin Sims Award is the big one and comes with $10,000 prize money. It is presented to the best new Western Australian work that is destined to succeed on the world’s stage.
Through REST the National Trust and WAYTCo have forged a strong partnership that is destined to continue into the future. In coming months work will commence on reworking REST into a one or two person show that can be offered on a more regular basis, create a source of employment for emerging performers and provide a unique cultural tourism experience for the community.