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Drum role to freedom
Coping Flack
For thousands of years the Vietnamese bronze-cast Ðông Son drum has been beaten to celebrate fertility, harvest and rain. It was also an instrument of war: tribal leaders would bang the drum at the threat of invasion, sending a message to the next village up the mountain or down the lowlands to prepare to fight.

But now it has a new role. Reborn in virtual form, the drum will help break down the walls that separate us from the physical, interactive history sitting in silent quarantine behind the glass cases of museums.

On the first Tuesday in May, seven weeks after the Covid-19 pandemic forced Sydney’s Belvoir theatre to shut its doors to the public, the lights flicked on in the white-painted rehearsal room and shadows crossed the floorboards as a tiny group of actors came to play.

Perhaps the late Orson Welles, who wrote the words the actors soon spoke – about making a stage show out of nothing – was looking down on them. His 1955 two-act play Moby Dick – Rehearsed starts with the actors thinking they are there for a dress rehearsal of Shakespeare’s King Lear, but the stage manager tells them they must pivot instead to Herman Melville’s great whale tale, with whatever resources they have to hand.

Steve's essays Bent Man Running published in Growing Up Queer in Australia and Stream drama in Meanjin autumn 2020.
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