Ochre Contemporary Dance Company presents Good Little Soldier in Subi

Mark Howett with Otto Kosok and Raewyn Hill. Picture: Andrew Ritchie
Mark Howett with Otto Kosok and Raewyn Hill. Picture: Andrew Ritchie

AS the son of a returned veteran from Vietnam, Ochre Contemporary Dance Company artistic director Mark Howett has experienced post-traumatic stress disorder close up.

“I look at PTSD like you live with their terrible illness they bring home and you get infected by it as well,” Howett said.

“We talk about the economic consequences of war, the diplomatic and strategic ones, but we don’t often talk about the social costs of war and how much load a family carries when these veterans come home.

“I think I was just as intimate with my dad’s PTSD as he was because he would talk about it; I was pretty aware of my father’s ghosts.”

Howett was compelled to make dance theatre work Good Little Soldier, which premiered in Berlin in 2013 while he was living in Germany.

Now based in Perth, the artistic director is remounting the work with original collaborators Gavin Webber and Grayson Millwood of contemporary dance company The Farm, Co3 artistic director Raewyn Hill (who returns to the stage for the first time in 10 years) and Noongar performer Ian Wilkes.

Wilkes, as a second ghost brought home from war and new addition to the production, acts as a representation of Noongar soldiers who have fought for Australia.

“It’s an investigation of PTSD,” Howett said.

“We go into their head and look at what happens to a person when having a PTSD episode, when they’re constantly recalling an event which to them is incredibly real.

“We made it in the very German tradition of dramaturgy. It’s mixed genre with theatre techniques and physical dance techniques and anything that will help us get closer to our vision of it.”

Howett said he hoped Good Little Soldier gave audiences a better understanding of the plight of an Australian family dealing with a veteran in their suburban home.

“We should celebrate the innocents who get caught up in war and have no say in it happening,” he said.

“We tend to honour the soldier but not the innocents as much; the wife and a child of an ill soldier who comes home and has nowhere else to displace the anger or trauma they suffered in combat.”


What: Good Little Soldier

Where: Subiaco Arts Centre

When: July 9 to 30

Tickets: www.ticketek.com.au