Kamarra Bell-Wykes on a wild visceral ride

by | Nov 9, 2023

This November, Malthouse Theatre presents an extraordinary double bill by First Nations company A DATLIGHT CONNECTION, featuring the critically acclaimed productions Whose Gonna Love ‘Em? I am that I AM and the return season of the 2022 hit Chase.

Led by visionary artists Carly Sheppard, Kamarra Bell-Wykes, Daniel Nixon, and smallsound, A DAYLIGHT CONNECTION is Malthouse Theatre’s Company in Residence for 2023.

Whose Gonna Love ‘Em? I am that I AM will deliver a captivating narrative that ventures into an absurd group therapy session held somewhere in the deepest cells of the collective mind and the colonised heart.

” The idea of what this play is has had many forms died and reborn before this final manifestation but ultimately it came from being in the lockdowns and diving deep into my individual and the collective psyche as we reached another level of the Colonial Crisis,” says writer and director Bell-Wykes.

An exploration of freedom and control and spiritual evolution, Bell-Wykes describes the play as an interrogation of the ongoing legacy of intergenerational trauma and its impact specifically on love, on our ability to give and receive it, on how we heal our colonised hearts and remember who we are as divine beings of energy. But she is quick to add, not in some wanky new age way, in an accountable, feet to the flames, phoenix rising from the ashes kind of way.

An important work indeed, Bell-Wykes would encourage audiences to really talk about intergenerational trauma – Its origin, its manifestation, its purpose, its function, as a weapon of oppression and a tool of evolution, our biggest hurdle and greatest potential. “We have to really talk about it, so we don’t have to talk about it anymore.”

As a project, Bell-Wykes says its gestation period took years, but the actual writing took 2 hours to complete a rough first draft.

“The fact that it took 2 hours to write after so many torturous years of exploration and failed attempts at writing. To experience receiving and manifesting the download in such quick real time is super humbling and gratifying.”

Wearing many hats, Bell-Wykes is also the director and co-devisor (along with actor Carly Sheppard, who has been developing and performing the character of Chase for nearly a decade) of the second piece, Chase.

In fact, a decade is how long Bell-Wykes and Sheppard have known one another. Bell-Wykes says she has always been in awe of Sheppard and her work, but they are also great friends and extended family members.

“She is one of this country’s most phenomenal performers and has been developing Chase for years,” says Bell-Wykes of Sheppard, “and the first time I met the character I was completely enthralled and knew I wanted to get in the room with both of them. This opportunity came as a Malthouse Resident Artist in 2020 when we started making CHASE in and out of lockdowns again exploring and rebirthing the idea many times before eventually co-devising the work and writing the 70-minute script in just under a week. The incredible process and outcome completely blew us both away and Carly and I discovered in each other and together a rare and powerful magic. We have been in the ceremony circle together many lifetimes before. And so, A DAYLIGHT CONNECTION (our theatre collective www.adaylightconnection.com.au was born and we’ve been making mad crack work together ever since.”

Chase is another exploration of the Colonial and Capitalist crisis but this time through absurd humour, ridiculous props and existential dread. It explores coping and survival mechanisms in the face of mass global extinction and our feeble, desperate attempts to make meaning out of life in the face of death. Oh, and its totally a rom-com.

While Bell-Wykes hasn’t actually started directing yet, she says a good schedule is her best friend as she obviously can’t be in two places at once. “WGLE’s most challenging element is the intricate blocking that scores the piece but also its most rewarding,” she says. ” I get equally terrified and ecstatic about the audiences’ responses as both the works smash and expand performance binaries and the aesthetic of what theatre is. We take big risks, and they pay off. Biggest challenge in Chase was the days of teching the incredible AV design and to stop laughing especially when my fave character Satan appears.”

As a writer and director, Bell-Wykes likes to tell stories about life, death, collective insanity, the mundane, the magic, ceremony, and the tenaciousness of spirit. “I like making characters that embody all the things we love and hate about ourselves and each other that take the piss out of everyone they meet and hold a mirror to society. I like pushing theatre to its wildest possible potential, theatre that chews people up, spits them out and rocks their world on its axis. I want to make theatre that fucks shit up.  If we wanted to watch TV we could have stayed home.”

This is a wild visceral night of live music, stunning performance, heartbreaking tears and big belly laughs that will punch you in the guts, kick you while you’re down and have you begging for more.

Brought to the stage by A DAYLIGHT CONNECTION – a team of vision theatre-makers, reimagining what First Nations Theatre can be – and not to be missed!

November 22 – December 3


Chase image: Tamarah Scott

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