Harley Mann Talks Fringe Show ‘Common Dissonance’

Melbourne based circus company Na Djinang Circus is debuting their show Common Dissonance at this years Adelaide Fringe bringing contemporary circus work to audiences at Gluttony. The show focusses on the different ways of reasoning or problem solving and thinking and how cultural or traditional teachings play a part in the way we deal with the struggles in our lives. The ‘work aims not only to explore the harmony and conflict of contemporary Australian reasoning, but to find a Common Dissonance.’

Waka Waka man Harley Mann spoke to Hi FI Way and explained what the show is about and while it speaks from a First Nations perspective the storyline is relevant to us all.

Can you tell us a bit about what Common Dissonance is about?
Common Dissonance is a contemporary circus work and it looks at opposing or different ways of reasoning or problem solving and thinking. We discovered that in life and our personal lives we have different ways of thinking about things that were formed by our cultural background, social circles, where we live, where we were at certain times in our lives. We use that way of reasoning to discover that if two different people have ways of thinking but they are coming up with solutions to the same problem. Maybe it isn’t about an ‘us and them’ thinking like one way is right and one way is wrong but sometimes there’s two solutions to the same problem.

So, from there we took this concept and extrapolated that into a contemporary circus work that tries to examine the similarities and also the differences in a way we come together and conflict. Then to try and find harmony in this space that we cohabitate and just exist as people.

I think it’s a very interesting topic. I’m not Aboriginal. I’m from a Greek background and I also have cultural and traditional ways I have been taught over time where I had to wrestle with traditional and modern reasonings. Obviously, your show is from an Indigenous perspective but do you think it could relate to most people as well?
I think so! I think it relates to everyone because we all go through a journey of discovery and discovering who we are. That’s informed by other people and things that have happened in our lives. Whether that’s from a Greek or other cultural background or like marriage and staying together forever and then moving into a modern world where these sorts of ways of reasoning aren’t necessarily as accurate or viable anymore. We have to find parts of the new world that we want to hold on to but also the old ways that keep us grounded and connected through our culture.

That’s what most people find in watching or experiencing this show is that, yes it’s the view from an Aboriginal/ First Nations perspective and modern Australian culture but I think we all grapple with our own self sense of identity.

How was it to perform those kinds of topics and to get those feelings out of you in a performance?
I find it very therapeutic. A lot of artists use their artform to get things they maybe can’t articulate in words or explain out of their brains and into the world. That’s what it’s doing for me as a performer. Towards the end of the show my character and persona on stage goes through a very violent and traumatic experience but its abstracted so it’s more feeling than anything actually happening.

Depending on the show the actions are just the actions but, in my life, if I’m going through something or I’m full of anxiety I’ve done shows at the end of that moment or action it all comes flooding out. All the emotions from anything happening in the moment or I’ve had a fight with my partner in the morning it all comes flooding out. It’s quite therapeutic but it could also be quite intense and I find as performers we need to find a place unpack and let that exist in a world carrying it around too much.

Is a lot of what’s in the show autobiographical for each person in the show or collectively put stories together?
We used the ideas to create acts and storylines. There’s a genal art to a show whether its me performing or any of the other artists in the show and it’s very much centred around the identity of those people. So, as they come into rehearsal for that show, they look at the storyline and go “OK, yes this matches with my life!” and we amend the bits that don’t match or feel right for them.  They try to craft it in a way each person is expressing themselves and they’re never replicating someone else’s choreography or story.

Are all the performers First Nations people?
No. They way each show is crafted is that it’s a two-handed show. One role is a First Nations and the other is a non-First Nations. Each person at the start of the show or the idea of it is each person is the metaphorical representations of the two ways of thinking or reasoning. Then as we continue through the show, we realise that maybe it’s not so black and white and there’s not such a divisive line between people.

Have you performed at the Adelaide Fringe before?
Yeah. This is the first time Common Dissonance is coming and presented in Adelaide. It’s the South Australian debut. I personally have been to the Fringe before with other works including the show Chasing Smoke in 2019/20. It’s very ingrained to what Fringe is and what vibe and energy. I’ve always loved being there and I think a lot of my cast and team also loved the Fringe energy. We are really excited to bring this show to audiences in Adelaide.

What are your thoughts or memories of the Adelaide Fringe?
I’ve only ever been to Adelaide for work. I haven’t had a chance to explore outside of Fringe time so I would be really interested to get my feet on that side of the country and explore the wonders of it all. The natural and art side of things. Fringe for me is a really important opportunity for artists. It’s in the name really, Fringe. Its about creating work that might not necessarily find its way on main stages. It isn’t the most consumable for main stream audiences that are accustomed to the ballet or the opera. It plays an important role in making sure that our art sector is diverse and actually represents people. That’s the thing for me that contemporary art is finding its way to fix or improve but doesn’t necessarily represent the lives of everyone and it never will be able to but we can strive to represent more diverse people, more diverse bodies and more diverse voices on stages. That’s where Fringe comes in and make space for those people.

What are three words to describe your show?
Unassuming, honest and surprising!

Interview by Anastasia Lambis

Tickets and show information for Common Dissonance at FringeTix. Grab Ya Tix!

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