Harley Mann brings queer First Nations show Son to QPAC

Acrobat Harley Mann in light blue shorts and denim shirts and another performer in the same outfit, hold up a third artist who is shirtless and has neckties draped over his arrms. The artists are pictured in the product of Son for QPAC.
Harley Mann (left) in Son for QPAC. Credit: Josaphine Seale

Harley Mann, the co-creator of Son which plays at QPAC this month, sat down with QNews to talk about the performance. 

The promotion for Son explains that it’s a cultural circus work about the relationship between fathers and sons.

However, after a few minutes of chatting with the co-creator of the show, Harley Mann, I realised it’s so much more than that. 

The show challenges Western norms of masculinity through acrobatics, and contemporary cultural dance with live music from female First Nations group Kardajala Kirridarra.

Harley is a Waka Waka man who founded the Na Djinang Circus in 2017 and is now the Artistic Director of CIRCA Cairns. He is also one of the acrobatic performers in Son

The performance is inspired by Harley’s own experiences growing up as an IVF baby in a single-mother household. 

“For me, I don’t have a father and that’s a really kind of clear distinction. I guess if you were going to be really kind of biological about it, sure there is somebody out there who would technically be the person that is the donor, but I don’t really think or consider them my father, and I have no kind of urge or desire to meet this person,” he tells me. 

“The show really is like the father is the cut out of the father or kind of the shadow of the father. It’s mostly a metaphor for masculinity.”

Queer experiences of masculinity

This “cut out” and the themes of masculinity are explored in a production that leans into the experiences of First Nations and queer people. 

“Masculinity is in a First Nations context, vastly different to the way it is experienced in a Western context, or, in a kind of straight Western context, Harley says. 

“I think, in a queer context, it’s much more the same and there’s more parallels in terms of a fluidity, kind of an acceptance, or transitioning kind of process.”  

“That’s the kind of a metamorphosis from one kind of type of identity or existence into another, which then kind of begs the logic that you can have another metamorphosis, or the transition to into whatever that is, it can be different.”

What can audiences expect?

When I ask Harley what people can expect from the show, he understandably baulks at the question.

“I’m really of the opinion that the way that we experience the world is if you haven’t experienced something, and somebody explained to you, they say ‘it’s like this’ or ‘it’s kind of like that.’ But we’re in a First Nations contemporary circus space where the types of works, stories, and the kind of people telling the stories hasn’t really happened,” he explains. 

“I’m very much of the opinion that I can’t quite articulate it, you actually just have to come and see it.” 

Exploring themes many queer people will resonate with, in a way not seen before, is an exciting prospect. 

Set to physically demanding acrobatics and First Nations music, this is a show not to be missed. 

Although Harley is coy about what to expect, he does have some hopes of what people may take away from the performance. 

“What I would love is that when people see this show they see glimpses of the parts of themselves that they haven’t been comfortable to kind of express or share and they feel inspired to be courageous and explore them further,” he says.

You can see the talents of Harley and the rest of the cast in this compelling production Son at QPAC from November 22-25.  For details and tickets visit the QPAC website.

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