Sky Song isn’t simply a technological spectacle; it is a poignant and spiritual experience that is celebrated, equally, for its cultural significance.
The 30-minute production follows five First Nations stories, created and told by some of the country’s most prominent Indigenous thought leaders and cultural icons. The talent includes singer, songwriter and activist Archie Roach, whose narration weaves the five stories together. Roach is joined by Kev Carmody, Electric Fields, the Iwiri Choir and Nancy Bates, along with storytellers Major “Moogy” Sumner and Jack Buckskin, poet Ali Cobby Eckermann, and dance group Dusty Feet Mob.
These stories are brought to life by UK-based company Celestial in a production that highlights the remarkable creative potential of drone art. This is done through projections of virtual drones on a huge screen (70 metres long and 50 metres high) and real drones that move in formations above the screen in myriad colours.
Drone art is a gentle medium, not only in terms of its impact on the environment but also in the way it is used to tell a story. The formations emerge slowly, keeping audiences enthralled and taking them on a journey as symbols of boomerangs, eyes and an Aboriginal flag flapping in the wind are gradually unravelled.
While the drone art is something to admire, Sky Song‘s soundtrack and songlines are what truly moves audiences. As Roach’s “Took the Children Away” or Carmody’s “From Little Things Big Things Grow” play to the audience, the drones complement the lyrics by forming figures of adults embracing children or hands being torn apart. Such moments of emotive impact connect with all age groups, as powerful storytelling often does.
Initially, Sky Song was to be held at the Adelaide Showgrounds, but aviation restrictions saw a last-minute move to Leconfield and Richard Hamilton Wines in McLaren Vale. This location, in a wine region away from the hustle and bustle of inner-city living, proves a wonderful setting for the immersive experience: behind the display are rolling hills, while above is an unobstructed night sky.
One of the strongest themes in Sky Song is a demand for First Nations people to be heard. The sheer scale of the production is enough to silence and humble viewers, persuading them to listen. The urgent issues of reconciliation, decolonisation and connection deserve a stage of this grandeur.
Sky Song is a stunning show, and all it asks of audiences is that you rug up, take a seat in front of the fire – created by virtual drones and the warm sound of crackling embers – and listen to the voices and stories that are so often silenced.
Sky Song is at Leconfield and Richard Hamilton Wines, McLaren Vale, until March 20.
Read more 2022 Adelaide Fringe stories and reviews here.
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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.