Jump First, Ask Later is currently in rehearsal ahead of its premiere season at Powerhouse Youth Theatre in Fairfield, Western Sydney. Director Byron Perry is working with six artists from Western Sydney’s underground parkour scene to create a physical theatre work where urban freestyle forms and contemporary dance intersect. In 2015 Jump First, Ask Later underwent a first-stage creative development during which Byron sat down to write about his experience on the project….
I have just finished two weeks working with artists from Fairfield’s underground parkour scene on the first stage development of a new physical theatre work These guys were just so inspiring and exciting to hang out with, they have boundless passion for what they do and their work ethic and commitment is incredible.
My focus over the course of the fortnight was to find ways to present their stories, their cultural histories and their relationship with Fairfield through the lens of their own interests and movement practices rather than through the imposition of my choreographic interests and research. Although we probably spent a little more time talking than moving in the first week my feeling was that without getting to know them and without their trust we would essentially just make a theatricalised display of their skills. Which, considering their skills would be fabulous to watch but would feel a little empty as a performance work. Each of them has a distinct physical style and their own interests in terms of movement and I am keen to keep the separation in those physical voices whilst braiding them together in the work. I also really wanted to keep it fairly raw and try to keep the work alive with the sort of energy they put out naturally when they are together. So, especially in the beginning of the work, the audience feels like they have entered one of the crew’s regular evening rehearsals rather than some considered theatrical space. My feeling is that each audience member needs to get to know these guys for the people they are as I did and through a similar process to how I did rather than cleaning everything up and packaging or distilling everything into palatable and concise theatrical scenes.
The arc of the work at this point is not related to story or character but to their practice and the training that they employ. I want their stories to literally unfold out of this training. These are kids that have connected on a creative level before anything else they are all drawn to movement for that reason and to the generative processes that unfold when you begin to increase your understanding and mastery of your physicality. They have each embraced movement and the creative aspects of parkour and I get the feeling that the physical training is having somewhat therapeutic outcomes in other aspects of their lives. It is like they are practising risk assessment and management first in a purely physical way, but then those instincts flow out from there into the rest of their lives. The training, the performances and the sense of community born from the inclusion in the crew erodes their differences. It knits them together, it gives them a reason to eat well, sleep well, train hard, look after each other and keep healthy. At the end of the two weeks I feel like we have discovered some really incredible stories and physical material and that things are looking very good for stage two.
– Byron Perry