Australian Dance Reviews

‘Julia’: A riveting performance of ‘not now, not ever’

Natalie Allen in 'Julia', presented by Steamwork Arts.
Natalie Allen in 'Julia', presented by Steamwork Arts.

Filmed at the Don Russell Performing Arts Centre and streamed by the Australian Digital Concert Hall.
September 2022.

Julie is an extraordinary performance, presented by Steamwork Arts, and created by Sally Richardson and Natalie Allen, livestreamed from the Don Russell Performing Arts Centre, Thornlie.

Allen gives a bold, powerful performance, with enormous presence and exceptional, very demanding choreography. She has incredible fluid control in her magnificent performance. At times, she is angry, other times, defiant and/or submerged by paperwork. The work is based on the now famous ‘not now, not ever’ speech by Julia Gillard, which still remains critical today as there is still misogyny and sexism in our society. The work roughly follows the chronology of Gillard’s past, present and future, Gillard starting out upbeat but soon submerged by various criticisms thrown at her.

The masked audience sits on stage. The set, designed by Helen Fitzgerald, is basically a large table, a chair, and a clothes rack. Allen as Gillard tries on all the various outfits including an orange high-vis vest and hard hat with megaphone. The large table is white, but there is a pale turquoise light around the edges and a huge pile of what represent government papers (lighting by Joe Lui).

Allen slides, jumps, twirls over the table. She then changed to a plain jacket and medium high heels with yellow spots. Slow, graceful arm movements follow; then, she stalks, crouches, twists and turns, including back bends with arms at her side. Allen then changes to an all red outfit, leading to a slow walk with the pile of papers on her head.

The papers are dropped (purposely), and then there is a flurry of movement to pick them all up, but they are still scattered. The lighting changes to pink and red. Papers are stuck down her back, like wings. A strong, fiery solo on the table top follows, with fluid, fiery movements. With sudden shakes of her body (now just wearing a t-shirt and undies), Allen alternates between the table and the floor, the papers scattered everywhere. She crawls, pushes the table, picks up some of the papers and then lets them drop. This is followed by fast, furious, twisting turns.

The lighting changes to pinky/purple. Allen now wears a white jacket over her other clothes and is back on the table. One arm is held in front of her face, followed by slow turns. She falls off the table several times, then, back on the stage floor, pushes the table again further away and then, high lit by red lighting, uses a broom to shift all the papers under it. Allen then changes into blue slacks and jacket and a red wig. There is a voiceover while Allen struts and mimes giving a speech and uses the table.

At times, there is a cracking soundtrack. Joe Lui and Annika Moses‘ soundtrack uses both Gillard’s distinct voice and crackling snatches of spiteful comment from press and politicians that at times could overwhelm Gillard.

Allen uses the megaphone standing on the table. She sits in the chair; then, after somewhat frantic movements, ends up back on the table. She slithers and rolls from side to side. The broom is at one point used like a gun, or briefly ridden like a witch’s broomstick.

It is then back to the blue jacket, but worn the wrong way around. Allen then circles, with victorious arms, and includes shoulder rolls, shakes and slithers. All the papers are scattered on the floor in sharp, snappy movements and her arm defiantly held high.

Julia is a riveting, vigorous and mightily impressive performance.

By Lynne Lancaster of Dance Informa.

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