Alec ‘Tracker’ Riley, a Wiradijuri Elder, worked for over 40 years with the New South Wales Police Force using his tracking abilities to lead countless high-profile cases. From locating lost children in mountains, capturing thieves, recovering stolen goods and more, Alec Riley’s incredible life and legacy is the inspiration of his great-great nephew Daniel Riley’s latest work Tracker.
Featuring an all First Nations cast, Daniel has co-directed and choreographed this piece in a multidisciplinary fashion which sees dance, theatre and live music combined to create an immersive experience. The State Theatre Centre’s studio underground is transformed into a thrust stage, with the performance area taking the form of a circular ceremonial space. A circular curtain rail above the stage is used to move sheer fabrics around the space, transforming it within seconds and creating a feeling of intimacy as it encloses the performers.
Ari Maza Long performs the dual role as an ancestor of Alec who is on a journey to discover and connect with him, while doing so he becomes Alec, the Tracker, himself. Dancers Tyrel Dulvarie, Rika Hamaguchi and Kaine Sultan-Babij are entwined in this storytelling by embodying the Tracker’s emotions and experiences with the land and people.
Composer Gary Watling plays a pedal steel guitar live on stage creating an all-consuming sound with a hypnotic quality. His work with James Henry, composer and sound designer, is indescribably perfect for this piece; working with the show’s varied levels of light and dark content while maintaining a cohesive sound.
Going between present day and scenes from Alec’s life is distinguished through all aspects of performance and design but perhaps most clearly by Chloë Ogilive’s lighting. Working with Jonathan Jones’ circular set, Chloë utilises lighting strips which line the inner circle to take us between the two states; shining brightly as we enter one of Alec’s experiences.
Daniel’s choreography illustrates the complexity of Alec’s life working within a system that simultaneously commended and oppressed him. There’s graceful and fluid movement as Alec works with the land, which leads him to the answers he seeks. Contrasting with the more forceful and striking choreography used to convey his relationship working within a colonial system and the turmoil that came with it. We see this inner conflict play out sometimes subtly such as Tyrel slowly moving across the floor, and at other times overtly with a police jacket forced upon him. However, not all the dancing focuses on the Tracker himself. A haunting recollection of Alec finding a drowned woman, sees Rika portraying her by dancing exclusively with her face hidden from the audience.
Dance is the vessel to the heart of this story and Daniel uses its unparalleled flexibility to provide audiences with a full narrative within just 55-minutes. While we may leave the theatre only knowing some of this man’s incredible life and his stories, we understand who he was and the impact his legacy continues to have on current and future generations.
Tracker was commissioned by Perth Festival and presented in association with ILBIJERRI Theatre Company.