That Was Friday, a new contemporary performance work conceived by House of Sand, is set to make its world premiere at the Belco Arts Centre in late November. Equal parts dance and theatre, this ambitious work explores distance and connectedness through the lens of a geographically dispersed family.
Behind House of Sand are Charley and Eliza Sanders, siblings who grew up in Canberra.
Eliza, a dancer and choreographer who performed with QL2, went on to study a Bachelor of Dance Performance at the New Zealand School of Dance. Charley, a director, dramaturge and theatre-maker, holds a Master of Fine Arts in Directing from the National Institute of Dramatic Arts and an Advanced Diploma of Arts in Acting from the Adelaide College of the Arts.
The pair, together with a diverse ensemble of multidisciplinary artists, has been creating a body of award-winning work recognised for pushing the boundaries of dance and theatre.
“Essentially, we are both purists in our own form but lovers of the other’s,” Eliza said. “On a process level that provides an incredible opportunity to have performers do what they do in proximity to those working in another form, to learn from each other, to share those skills.”
Charley said the pair wanted to attempt this experiment and investigate how “we might retain that purity of form”.
“This is the first show in eight years where we have taken that experiment to its logical conclusion,” she said. “I’m fascinated to know what audiences think.”
Three years in the making, That Was Friday subverts and inverts those notions of form, playing with audience assumptions about what they are and can be. By adding layer upon layer of live performance, dance, pre-recorded film, live recordings and sound, the work consists of multiple intricate and multifaceted narrative threads to blend fiction and reality.
“The work is not explicitly shaped in a way that makes it easily legible,” Charley said. “But it is my belief one of the beautiful artefacts of Millennials and Gen Z spending so much time online is that we have become good at reading montage. We are really good at taking in a lot of information that at first glance might not fit together and then finding meaning within it.”
Eliza described encountering That Was Friday as you might a large painting.
“There is so much going on and you might decide to go into a small portion and zone out the rest or you might decide to go wide with a soft focus,” she said. “It is a choice for the viewer.
“Of course it is the artist’s job to guide the audience’s attention at different moments but there is a point in all of my work where I am not going to guide your attention and you will have to make a choice.
“I think what that does is asks the audience to lean in with a bit of agency. For me, riding that edge is actually the most creative moment of a show.”
While guided by Charley and Eliza, collaborators in the work include Sara Zwangobani who most recently appeared in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Lachlan Martin (aka Tilly Capulet) and award-winning producer Mario Späte who has worked with artists Tkay Maidza, Allday and Montaigne among others.
“If we have an explicit ask of the audience, it is to let the work resonate exactly how it resonates,” Charley said. “With your own life, with your own experience, how it sits alongside the things you hate or the things you love. Your relationship with yourself, with your family or with art.”
Rich with text and subtext, That Was Friday ultimately exudes a straightforward warmth. At its heart, the performance is a celebration of community, wherever you may find it.
That Was Friday
Belconnen Arts Centre
23-26 November 2022