Miyagan (Our Land People Stories)

The design from first imaginings to realisation: Miyagan

  • Dubbo
  • Props, Sets & Lighting, Behind the Scenes
“The slowly increasing installation of wiry strands and thick feathers adds to the abstract feel of Miyagan."
Imagined possibilities: Choreographer Beau Dean Riley Smith's sketch for designer Jacob Nash

When Beau Dean Riley Smith and Daniel Riley forged rich, storyboarded concepts for their work Miyagan, they agreed that feathers would be the central component for the set design. Miyagan unfolds under a rousing firmament of interlaced, interrelated, interdependent feathered weave. Pictured above is an image depicting how choreographer Beau Dean Riley Smith first imagined this construct. The images below show how designer Jacob Nash developed this concept.

This work celebrates Wiradjuri culture and especially the kinship and totemic systems. Feathers are significant on many levels within Wiradjuri culture. Daniel Riley's first work for Bangarra, Riley (2010), celebrated the life work of Wiradjuri man Michael Riley. Riley concluded with the section Feather in which Daniel responded to the concept embraced by the Wiradjuri people that a feather symbolises an umbilical cord connecting mother and baby, beings and earth, home and the universe: a life sustaining thread or a significant message about these bonds.

The concept of 'string' is also important here. Beau and Daniel spent a day with Aunty Diane Riley McNaboe learning traditional Wiradjuri roping practice. This was both a meditative and bonding experience ... soaking up cultural stories while binding natural fibres and bonding through kinship.

There is a complexity to the suspended feather strings. It is as though the string is narrating the story and the feather/s represent the emerging subjects.

Set designer Jacob Nash has extended upon the choreographer's vision for the set design. Jacob's vision is first realised in miniature and shared with the creatives by use of a model box. This allows for creative tweaking before the build begins.

After the plans are locked in, the build commences. Planet Engineering was commissioned for the build of this intricate set. Working from the plans, the set is fabricated out of steel which is an ideal building material as it is strong yet malleable.

With multiple sections and rigging points, the set is rigged to multiple bars in the theatre. This enables sections of the set to be flown in at different times on specific cues, gradually augmenting the size and visual impact of the sculptural set piece through the course of the work. The company Stage Manager directs this action from the Prompt side of stage, calling the cues over headsets which synchronise with music, lighting and choreography. Often the flying of bars requires some rehearsal from the fly crew - the action of the set must have a specific temperament and exact timing not only for visual impact but also for the safety of the artists onstage.

And in the theatre ...

the set transforms the stage. An interplay of all elements - set, lighting, sound, costumes, choreography and performing artistry - breathe the world of Miyagan into life.

"I love the creative journey we go on each year as a clan at Bangarra. We creatively share, respond and discover the world of our story - and then we share it."
Set Designer Jacob Nash

Article by Yolande Brown