JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND SMILES
JOURNEY OF A THOUSAND SMILES, 5pound Theatre, Butterfly Club Melbourne 18-22 January 2017.
Jessica Hackett (writer/actor/walker) walked from Melbourne to Canberra to hand-deliver a petition to the House of Representatives in the hope that asylum seekers and refugees would finally be treated with dignity and respect. Her show Journey of a Thousand Smiles lets us in on what it all meant – then and now.
Theatre is about story telling set in a theatrical guise. To their credit 5pound Theatre gave Hackett that platform to present her journey. Directed by Jason Cavanagh with a small and cohesive set by Robert Lingham comprising a narrow row of rocks for her to walk on and the use of an audio visual screen which gave the audience an insight into her walk. When you closed your eyes you were aurally on that journey with her.
Like Camino walkers across the globe there was the offer of food and shelter along the way; the mind playing tricks; bulls turning into cows and the nagging feeling that maybe you were doing the wrong thing – would people understand or were they/you just being self righteous. And a local government representative not allowing you to walk through their boundary for health and safety reasons – theirs — they didn’t want to be sued, which put an extra 80 kilometres onto the walk. This is a very funny anecdote.
Perhaps because it’s a small space, performers and directors alike seem to feel the need to have the audience participate. It didn’t work for me: it wasn’t necessary we, the audience, were part of it by nature of the space.
Colin Craig added atmosphere with some fine guitar playing and vocals. Again, it seems because it is a cabaret space there is a need to have a musical interlude. I’m not so sure.
There are heart-rending moments when listening to refugees speak of their plight, their fears, ill health and their treatment, or lack of. Tears well up, you can’t help but be affected. In these moments we understand why Hackett did what she did. It is unfortunate that during the walk the High Court came down in favour of the government; the realisation that it is about the interpretation of law not humanity.
Journey of a Thousand Smiles is worth the walk.