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My primal Docklands

31 May 2011

My primal Docklands Image

By Shane Scanlan

Soul?  I’ll give you soul.  Primordial, tribal soul from the place that’s not supposed to have any, Melbourne’s Docklands.

Here’s a 48-hour snap shot from mid-last month.  

It starts with an invitation to Docklands News from Channel Nine to be part of the studio audience at The Footy Show, now broadcasted live from Docklands Studios.

There’s a four-year waiting list to be an actual contributor rather than a passive observer of this cultural experience.  So we’re very thankful.

But it doesn’t start too well.  A trench-coated goon with a metal detector demands we surrender our mobile phones before we join a lot of people in a very small room. Baa.  This is how sheep in a holding pen must feel.  The condensation on the windows runs earthwards in rivers.

As invited guests, it would be ungrateful to complain.   And no one is complaining.

There’s a common bond here, one which the warm-up man deftly exploits.  Everyone here loves footy.  

I get a bit too warmed up and the warm-up man enquiries whether I am pissed.  And where are my colours anyway?

Fair cop.  I haven’t had a Saints jumper since I started barracking for them in 1967.  And no joy either.  And this guy wonders why I am not wearing their colours?

The show itself is surprisingly engrossing and entertaining.  I really didn’t think Sam Newman would be so quick-witted and funny.  

During the ad breaks, the warm-up man unites us with his routine.  It’s school-yard and blokey and we shouldn’t really be laughing.  But it IS funny.  And from within the tribe, we feel united and safe – so safe, in fact, that there’s a question and answer session after the show when the cameras are turned off.

“Ask us anything,” is the invitation.  People do.  And the responses are honest and given freely on the understanding that they go no further than the four walls of the studio.  Sam is quizzed extensively about his sex life.

Everyone walks away bonded.  That’s soul.

The next night is Shakespeare. Cultural?  Of course, but so’s football.  Primal?  Absolutely. So much more than footy.  This Macbeth fellow was the real deal.  Football’s bad boys are just pretenders in comparison.

And Dockland’s Shed 4 at this time of year has enough Scottish-castle-like refrigeration to generate the required volume of soul to make this experience extremely memorable.  The actors are wearing leather, pagan tattoos and bare flesh.

Director Glenn Elston gets the audience up close and personal by dispensing with seats and having the audience move between sets.  “To the heath!”  “To the castle!” is the command.

No one exposes and celebrates the base instincts and behaviours of humans like Shakespeare and all these centuries later, it’s hard to imagine any better production than Australian Shakespeare Company’s version in Docklands last month.

Sex.  Desire.  Passion.  Why does every generation think they are the first to discover it?  Macbeth is clearly a naive victim of his humanity.  

That’s soul.

And outside Shed 4 on the wharf there’s another show underway – a show on a boat called Barkoona.

The boat is moored at the wharf.  It’s carrying a tribe of men.  And a naked woman who is allowing herself to be degraded for their entertainment.

“Don’t look.  It’s private,” says the captain who claims that an unusually high-tide has resulted in the private bucks party becoming very public.   

He takes to the harbour and by the time he returns to dock, inside the shed Banquo’s ghost is arising from the witches cauldron.

I wander up the wharf with the bucks party.  They’re noisy and primal.  They are surprised and stimulated by their surroundings.  They accuse a fisherman of being a statue.  Everyone thinks that’s funny.

This is Docklands.  These things don’t happen in the ‘burbs.  

We’ve got soul.

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