Last Saturday I went to a showing of “Wizard of Auslan”, a new in-progress production by Vulcana Women’s Circus, at the Stores Studio in the Powerhouse Museum. It had two once-off showings; one at 3pm and one at 6pm. As a current student of Auslan (Australian sign language), I was really excited to see Auslan used in drama, as it is a beautiful, expressive language when signed in everyday conversation.
Vulcana Women’s Circus is a group that encourages positive physical experiences and creative power through circus movements and acts. It’s a women-only performance group that also holds the Vulcademy – or, circus classes – at the Powerhouse. Vulcana has been working with the Deaf community for some time, and The Wizard of Auslan is a work in-progress. “It was some of our best scenes put together!” said one performer at the end.
I enjoyed every moment of “The Wizard of Auslan”! Although there was music in the background, the performance was told primarily in sign language. The performance was totally accessible to those who don’t know sign language, however. The performers were members from the Deaf community – one woman has been one of my Auslan teachers this year! As emphasised in their show booklet, “this project explores the possibilities around creating a unique signed performance that examines the physical languages of circus and Auslan.”
It was an original and very clever take on The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy (complete with a puppet Toto), the Tin Man (holding a biscuit tin, unable to open it), the Cowardly Lion (a woman wearing a fur coat), and the Scarecrow who kept dropping straw everywhere all came together on a park bench in the middle of the stage. All the characters knew how to solve each other’s problems, but couldn’t communicate with each other. Through learning sign language (featuring a humourous moment where Dorothy pulled the Auslan dictionary out of her basket!), the four were able to help each other out: the Tin Man got their biscuit tin open, the Cowardly Lion took their coat off and fanned themselves cool.
The staging was absolutely fantastic it’s minimalism; it drew the focus on the performers’ language. The scene changes were simple and almost Brechtian. By far some of the best parts of “The Wizard of Auslan”, however, were the circus performers. Women climbed, twisted and turned high above the floor. It was professional and awe-inspiring to watch. It really added to what was a very physical production. At the end, all the women got up and signed ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’, which was really cool to see.
“The Wizard of Auslan” was a clever, touching, beautiful and funny production.
~ Emma Di