The Stream / The Boat / The Shore / The Bridge

NEXT WAVE: A thoughtful, playful, evocative and transformative live art experience centred around and upon Melbourne’s Yarra River.

Warning: this review contains minor spoilers which may impact on your enjoyment of the work under discussion.

The opportunity to experience one’s home town as if for the first time; to see it through fresh eyes, like a new arrival – or like a time traveller to whom this familiar collection of concrete, glass, bitumen and steel was only moments before a thickly wooded wilderness – is a rare and beautiful thing. Created for the 2012 Next Wave Festival by Dan Koop and collaborators, The Stream / The Boat / The Shore / The Bridge – a playful and evocative work of live art – does just that, as well as providing participants with the opportunity to liberate themselves from social conventions, revisit the new, and forget the familiar.

The work is centred around and upon Melbourne’s murky Yarra River, which in the words of creator/director Dan Koop, “connects the city East to West, but also divides us North from South”, and encourages its participants, of who there are just four at a time, to choose a journey that takes them on, over and around the Yarra. In doing so, it allows them to look back in time, look outside themselves, and witness Melbourne as if for the first time.

‘The Shore’ is an exercise in storytelling that begins with an evocation of Melbourne’s growth from settlement to modern day, and which continues on into the realm of one’s imagination. ‘The Boat’ is literally that – a dinghy journey across the river, but also a journey into the participant’s own past and personality; a journey with the potential to offer up moments of profundity and insight, as if the gentle waters of the Yarra were a psychologist’s couch. ‘The Bridge’ is not only an opportunity to strip away the layers of history and see the city anew; it’s also a game that allows participants to strip away perceptions and conventions, to hug strangers, to dance like nobody is watching, to picnic in the heart of the city. ‘The Stream’ I did not experience, and its delights remain a mystery to me.

No participant will have exactly the same experience – the structure of the piece means that everyone will participate in only three of the four possible journeys – but every journey offers up a simple yet thrilling and fascinating experience; one that is by turns visceral, personal and deeply engaging. Some sections could strive to be more profound – ‘The Shore’ is perhaps the weakest of the three components this reviewer experienced – but the cumulative effect of these unique journeys is significant.

The Stream / The Boat / The Shore / The Bridge is a remarkable, life-affirming and engaging work that brings a smile to one’s face many hours after the work itself is over. It is, without doubt, a highlight of the 2012 Next Wave Festival, and comes highly recommended.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

The Stream / The Boat / The Shore / The Bridge
Created by Dan Koop in collaboration with performance artists Andrew Bailey, Penny Harpham, Jamie Lewis and Lauren Clelland and visual artists Caroline Gasteen,
Georgie Humphries and Max Milne
Southbank Wharf, Melbourne
May 19 – 21 and 23 – 27

Next Wave Festival
May 19 – 27

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on Three Triple R FM, and serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management. Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Living Legend in 2017. In 2020 he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize. Most recently, Richard was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Green Room Awards Association in June 2021. Follow him on Twitter: @richardthewatts