Australasian Drama Studies
Issue 78 | April 2021
Table of Contents
1. Issue 078 (Full Issue PDF)
3. Editorial Yoni Prior
4. Staging Music in Shakespeare Richard Fotheringham
An analysis of insights and limitations in using architectural and antiquarian approaches to staging Shakespeare’s plays in performance, then and now, particularly in relation to music, musicians, and the ‘music room’.
5. From Bejewelled Crucifix to Modern Dress: ‘Shakespeare and Stage Costume’ from Wilkie to Bell Rachel Fensham
Theatre costumes except with rare exceptions are fragile artefacts – often worn out during their lifetime by use and re-use, sometimes used by multiple actors or exchanged between one company and another; and they are often adapted, lost or destroyed when they come to the end of their useful life. Aoife Monk’s ground-breaking book, The Actor in Costume, has invigorated research on the material culture of costumes although there is still much to be accomplished to understand the role of costumes on the Australian stage. They do however offer tantalising glimpses of the embodied life of theatre history and suggest new ways of responding to the role of archives in the interpretation of historical change.
With a focus on an object-oriented analysis of costume, this paper elaborates on a much earlier contribution from Oscar Wilde to debates on the historical authenticity of costumes in his essay, Shakespeare and Stage Costume, and examines its influence on the theatre entrepreneur, Allan Wilkie, and his Shakespeare company in the early part of the twentieth century. By looking at the role of selected objects, relics and costumes in Wilkie’s productions and comparable works from the same period, questions about theatrical aura, colonial transmission and the anxieties of modernity for the reception of Shakespeare in Australia can be explored.
6. Visualising the Story of Theatre in Sydney: Venues, Repertoire and Change, 1920–2020 Jonathan Bollen
Theatre is sometimes imagined as an art form at risk – from talking pictures in the 1920s and television in the 1950s to the Covid-19 pandemic in the 2020s. But the Wolanski Collection and data from AusStage tell a different story. Theatre companies and venue buildings come and go. Yet, over the last hundred years, theatre in Sydney is a story of growth: more venues, with more seats, presenting more performances in a wider range of genres to more spectators. This essay uses maps of venues in Sydney and visualisations of repertoire patterns to reveal insights into the city’s history of theatre production and cultural change between 1920 and 2020. It demonstrates an approach to research that integrates digital records of theatre production with theatre programs from an archival collection. Maps are arranged in a time-series to reveal what venues to audiences in Sydney. Genre terms drawn from theatre programs trace the evolution of performance, while information on the national origin of artists frame the efforts to produce Australian works. In visualising data on theatre production, the essay reveals longitudinal patterns in repertoire that challenge assumptions about theatre in Sydney and extend the story in new directions.
Keywords: theatre, history, visualisation, database, archive
7. The Guthrie Report and Its Discontents Chris Hay
In March 1949, as an adjunct to a scoping mission for a return Old Vic theatre tour to Australia, famed director Tyrone Guthrie was invited to prepare a report on the possibility of an Australian national theatre. Government records indicate that he spent six weeks in Australia, before delivering a “Report on Australian Theatre” that was subsequently published in the June 1949 Australian Quarterly. Despite its famously dismissive tone, the Guthrie Report became a lightning rod around which demands for a national theatre and for federal arts subsidy finally began to coalesce.
However, tracing a coherent narrative about the Report is difficult. Sources and later accounts differ on details and these inaccuracies have crept into even the most authoritative accounts of Australian theatre history. In this article, I return to the original records that established Guthrie’s visit to Australia, as well as the government deliberations that his Report provoked, to reveal the Guthrie Report as offering a blueprint for the arts subsidy that developed in Australia during the 1950s. By further contextualising “the notorious Guthrie Report” (Meyrick 27), my work also interrogates the value of aetiological myths to writing and re-writing national theatre histories.
8. Recognising the Face of Australian Theatre: Authentic Diversity and the Case of Metanoia Glenn D’Cruz in interview with Görkem Acaroğlu, Shane Grant and Greg Ulfan
Metanoia is a theatre company founded by Görkem Acaroğlu, Greg Ulfan and Shane Grant in 2013. The group consistently redresses the under representation of non-Anglo writers, performers, directors and other theatre workers on Australian stages — this is especially true of flagship theatre companies (see Kim Ho, Cultural Diversity in Australian Theatre, 2017). Originally located at the Mechanics Institute in Brunswick, Melbourne, the company is now based in regional Victoria and continues to explore how questions of race, ethnicity, gender identity and class play out in a variety of local and international contexts. Metanoia has built a reputation for producing innovative works that span a variety of genres including narrative theatre, digital performance, immersive installations and live art. This paper identifies the company’s major aims and achievements with a focus on its political orientations and dramaturgical strategies by interviewing its principal creatives. Since the word, ‘metanoia’ refers to changes or shifts in perception, thought and action, this paper explores the company’s perspective on the problems associated with attempting to (literally) change the face of Australian theatre culture. This article includes hyperlinks to video recordings of selected Metanoia productions.
Keywords: Diversity; inclusivity; colour blind casting; Australian Theatre; Politics, Race
9. ‘It Caught the Zeitgeist’: Interview with Andrew Bovell Nathan Hastie
Andrew Bovell’s When the Rain Stops Falling is one of Australia’s most critically and commercially successful plays of the twenty-first century, which tells the story of a family’s search for reconciliation across several generations, before, during and after an apocalyptic environmental event. Since its first performance in 2008 for the Adelaide Festival of Arts, it has become one of Australia’s most produced plays internationally. It is an early work of Australian environmentalist theatre, while also being one of the first plays to draw parallels between the generational inherited trauma of colonialism and environmental damage. For his Honours thesis at the University of Queensland, Nathan Hastie interviewed Andrew Bovell in his investigation of how Bovell’s play was able to find success from the Australian market to both Broadway and the West End. Bovell is one of Australia’s leading playwrights, with other major works staged annually on international stages, such as Speaking in Tongues (later adapted into the film Lantana) and Things I Know To Be True. The following interview provides an insight into Bovell’s creative process and discusses his thoughts concerning identity, nation and the disappearing physical and psychological landscapes, and how all of these elements come together in When the Rain Stops Falling. For Hastie’s thesis, he additionally interviewed the play’s director, Chris Drummond, while also comparing the success of When the Rain Stops Falling, to another successful Australian play, Holding the Man, in which he also interviewed playwright Tommy Murphy and director David Berthold.
10. ‘Sustained Personal Contact’: Recent Australian Productions on Tour in China Anne Pender
In 2012 Australia’s first ambassador to China, Stephen Fitzgerald, argued that Australians need a stretch of the imagination ‘to be able to imagine a different kind of relationship’ with China, one that is not merely transactional and commercial. Fitzgerald encouraged Australians to invest in the relationship in a way that we have with other important nations such as the UK and the US. He stressed the need for an ‘intensity of sustained personal contact’. The making of theatre is one of the ways in which sustained personal contact occurs, and a genuine cultural exchange.
Between 2012 and 2020 at least a dozen Australian theatre companies have taken their work to China. Companies offering opera, ballet, spoken word drama, physical theatre, puppetry and children’s theatre have all toured or appeared at festivals, some of them offering productions over multiple years. This article draws on extensive first-hand accounts by participants interviewed by the author to explore the recent experiences of actors, directors and producers involved in three touring productions and their reception by Chinese audiences, against a backdrop of expanding access to, and increasing interest in Australian performance in the People’s Republic. Using a case study approach, the article examines the development and production of three diverse works and the extent of their adaptation for audiences in China. The case study productions include Saltbush, an immersive children’s theatre production from Insite Arts, Baba Yaga, a children’s play and co-production between Adelaide’s Windmill Theatre and Scotland’s Imaginate, and desert, 6.29pm, a play produced by the Red Stitch Actors’ Theatre, who were invited to perform at the Wuzhen Theatre Festival in 2018.
The article considers the spaces of aesthetic transformation and intercultural connection afforded by the productions, the long-term investment in children’s theatre in South Australia that has enabled the international reach of several companies, the finely balanced economics of touring to China, and the sustained personal relationships between the touring companies and the individuals who operate the highly successful Shanghai-based presenting company, A.S.K (Art Space for Kids). It speculates about performance futures and collaborative opportunities between China and Australia at a time of strained relations.
11. What Are The Ties That Hold Us Together? The Smartphone Networks in As If No One Is Watching and Body of Knowledge Abbie Victoria Trott
In this time of ubiquitous digitality, the smartphone has become a central interface of connection. It gathers us together, tying us to people that we know – and people that we don’t – as we participate in what Shuhei Hosokawa described in 1984 as acts of ‘secret theatre.’ Considering two networked performances – Vulcana Women’s Circus and WaW Dance’s As If No-One is Watching (2018, 2019), and Body of Knowledge (2019) by Samara Hersch – I use network theory to examine the ties that assembled the audience members together. Watching a physical abstraction of the private, while listening to personal stories in public, the audience – through their smartphone – interfaced with the performance of As If No One is Watching, enabling them to engage with acts of theatre in secret. In contrast – working together to establish a ‘body’ of ‘knowledge’ – the audience of Body of Knowledge used smartphones to interface with each other and the performers. Situated firmly in the ‘physical,’ as opposed to the ‘virtual,’ these immersive performances were reliant on smartphone facilitated post-digital networks. In this article I explore how the smartphone in performance gathers audience members together over a network.