Co-Director & Choreographer Daniel Riley. Co-Director Rachael Maza AM. Writers Ursula Yovich and Amy Sole Set Designer Jonathan Jones. Composer & Sound Designer James Henry. Composer & Live Musician Gary Watling. Lighting Designer Chloë Ogilvie. Costume Designer Ailsa Paterson. Performers Tyrel Dulvarie, Rika Hamaguchi, Ari Maza Long and Kaine Sultan-Babij. Dramaturgs Amy Sole and Jennifer Medway. Project Elders Aunty Shirley Mathews and Aunty Ann Cribb. Wiradjuri Language Translator Aunty Dianne Riley-McNaboe. Scenic Artist Merindah Funnell, Producer Erin Milne. Production Manager Nathan Evers. Stage Manager Lyndie Li Wan Po. Technical Supervisor Clinton Camac. Ilbijerri Theatre Company and Australian Dance Theatre. Odeon Theatre, Adelaide Festival March 10-19 2023
Reviewed by Peter Wilkins
Australia Dance Theatre and Ilbijerri Theatre Company’s Adelaide Festival offering, Tracker is a dramatic monologue with dance. It could be regarded as drama with dance rather than dance theatre. Tracker is the story of artistic director Daniel Riley’s Great Grand Uncle on his father’s side. Sergeant Alexander Riley was a highly regarded aboriginal tracker with the NSW police force for almost forty years. His story is a fascinating one. His connection to country and his understanding of the land and ability to read the lessons of the land is a lesson to us all to listen, to see and follow the heart. One of the company plays Daniel Riley, a descendant now living in the city. There is a touch of ironic comedy at the opening of the performance as he discovers that his orienteering skills are limited as he sets out to trace his ancestor’s life as a police tracker. There is an underlying sense of loss as he helplessly attempts to read the map before him.It is a story that should be told and a lesson that should be learned. Sadly the dance contributes little to the drama. The choreography is repetitive and much of it is confined to floor work. There are moments when it escapes the pull to the earth and begins to respond to the dramatic score, played on the synthesizer. All too soon however the action returns to the narrator, who reads accounts of Riley’s adventures from his notes.
In a final scene the actor playing Daniel Riley assumes the character of his ancestor, later in life and living on a reserve, and wearing a watch he received on retirement, the only acknowledgement of four decades of service to the white man’s laws. The anger spurts forth, not from the mouth of the kind and good Alex Riley, but from the descendant. It is the anger of accusation, didactic and forceful. Anger is no substitute for art. They can co-exist but ADT ‘s creative mission is to tell stories through theatre and dance. Brecht’s Epic Theatre exhorts an audience to judge. The story and the theatrical form enable that judgement to occur.