Yarn with Davey Thompson: YIRRAMBOI Blak Critic

Who your mob? Where you from? 

I belong to some incredible communities. I’m a Inningai, Bidjara, Wakka Wakka and Gubbi Gubbi man originally from Barcaldine in Central West Queensland, born in Bundaberg on Gureng Gureng country, very happily calling the Kulin Nations my new home. I also proudly represent the rainbow mob who exist in every pocket of this country.

In three words describe for us your country…

Quiet. Hot. Isolated.

What made you apply for the YIRRAMBOI Blak Critics Program?

I first heard about the program through Yirramboi’s Creative Director, Jacob Boheme, who told me that I should apply. I wasn’t sure I’d do it at first because my age often gives, older people in particular, license to dismiss what I have to say, especially when they find out I haven’t been to university. In saying that, over my career so far I’ve spent what feels like thousands of hours inside dark rooms watching professionals both make and perform shows. I know what it takes. I’m always finding myself analysing every show and film I see.

At my age, with my heritage, I’ve been incredibly lucky enough to get an inside look to the sector and how it all functions, and what I’ve learned in this journey is what I like to think about when watching these shows… Not just the director’s vision or the actors, or what’s on display, but what the untrained eye doesn’t see – the production team up in the roof silently plugging away, and the hundreds of hours of rehearsal and coordination. After I’d realised that, I was easier to persuade. Jacob knows me well enough to know my trigger words and he made me realise I was contributing to a larger conversation in our country – and that’s the conversation around Aboriginal people. If we can influence the language around the arts that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people produce, it’s only a matter of time until the rest of the country can shift the language they us about us. How could I pass up this opportunity?

You’ve had a series of workshops with Luke Pearson and Jack Latimore from IndigenousX and Guardian Mastreclasses led by Jane Howard (theatre/dance), Luke Buckmaster (film), Kate Hennessy (music), Van Badhamn (critical review & opinion writing) and Miles Martignoni (podcasting), give us an insight into some of the highlights from the masterclasses

Over the course of this project, we’ve been so fortunate to have some truly incredible people share their time, talent and method of work with us. It’s been a surprising experience, with every facilitator making the day their own, teaching us everything they could with the short time we had. It’s ridiculously generous and I want to thank each of them from the bottom of my heart. It’s not often that Aboriginal people feel supported in this country, and our workshop facilitators have done a wonderful job in breaking that tradition.

What about the other participants selected for the workshop, how have you found them? 

The other participants involved in the Blak Critics program are inspiring to be around. We’re such a crazy, loving mob who come from very different walks of life. Being amongst the younger end in our cohort, I’m really enjoying listening to what everyone else sees when we observe works. I feel like their experience, their lens of the world and their knowledge is filtering down to me, its quite special. I’m really loving that they see me as their equal as well, there’s no ageist politics within the group. We all see each other as we are and respect that.

What do you hope to gain from your involvement in the Blak Critics stream of the YIRRAMBOI Festival?

I’m really excited to be a part of a program with phenomenal potential to change the face of our country. With all due respect to our wonderful critics on the Australian scene, the language they use is limited when it comes to analysing works made by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. Whilst the best intentions are there, I feel that non-Indigenous critics review shows with incredibly cautious language in order to save their own skin if they accidentally offend us. Which is lovely if you look at it in a particular way, but to do that you’re ignoring that it denies our artists an honest dialogue about ways they can improve their work. That’s a disservice to your industry. I’m here to contribute to the conversation and to help deliver some kick ass theatre for Australian audiences.