Witness History Episode 0

This is the introduction/preview episode of Witness Performance History.  In this episode we discuss the value and importance of live performance as well as some of the problems it faces in contemporary Australia.

This video introduces Series One and also outlines what we hope to achieve with the series.  The full first series will launch in March 2018.
There’s more coming this year, so keep in touch – sign up here for Witness updates.

9 thoughts on “Witness History Episode 0

  1. Hey Rob, excellently potted! One of the things that strikes me as peculiar to our situation as compared to many of the theatre cultures we often compare ourselves to is simply the demographics – too few people spread too thin to create the critical mass that sustains a ‘full’ theatre ecology. So we have been more susceptible to the vagaries of government policy, the risk-aversion of commercial producers (particularly when JCW was a virtual monopoly) and the barrows pushed by powerful amateurs, than I suspect would be the case in, say, North America or Europe. Possibly that has also meant that theatre makers who try for something new have to work a lot harder and be more resourceful and resilient?

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    1. Hey thanks! Yeah, i’ve heard that a lot – about our population being too small to really support the industry – I’m not entirely convinced yet. I feel like it might arise out of trying to transplant the theatre ecologies from overseas assuming that they’ll work just as well here. Sure, there may not be scope to support an American style theatre industry with a central broadway style focal point with lots of out of town tryouts in other states first, but i wonder if the problem is maybe our reliance on other models developed for other countries (other geographies, other demographics, etc) rather than developing a model that works for the specifics of Australia (spread out populations, lower numbers). We inherited/imported our industrial structures from the UK and the US – and to a much lesser extent Europe – as though they were the only way local theatre would be legitimised… So its kind of another post colonial hang over, importing cultural norms rather than assessing the local situation and working within its constraints to make something more unique to the local conditions… I mean, government policy and commercial producers are naturally risk averse and rely on international works and artists rather than fostering our own because the industry we have cobbled together here in a rough approximation of our forebears from the northern hemisphere isn’t stable. That said, the hard ground here does produce some tough artists who punch well above their weight…

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      1. That’s an interesting point about our assumptions on the way theatre will work – economically and socially. I wonder what it might mean to reinvent it? I guess that’s a long discussion. Indigenous performance/story-telling might offer some models…

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  2. What you say is incredibly important, and I look forward to more. However, the heavily cut and edited style of the video is unbelievably distracting! I hope you allow it to be more fluid in future episodes. Very best wishes for a great project.

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    1. Hi,
      Thanks Flloyd. Yes, there’s a lot of jump cuts in this one. First video, quick cut together, written, recorded and edited on the same day. I’ll have much more time to put into the videos when we launch in 2018. Should be a much smoother viewing experience in future.

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  3. Hey Tandango, more thoughts coming from me on this subject in a long form essay in September…. 🙂 Certainly wouldn’t be a terrible idea to include the indigenous performance communities much more in policy and structural discussions. They were here doing it for a lot longer than the current models. Certainly the way it works now is not the most efficient. – Rob

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  4. I know that mention of German theatre practice brings some of the commentariat out in hives, but … it’s noticable that, much like Australia, German theatres are very often heavily regional – theatre in Munich is a different beast to theatre in Berlin, just as theatre in Sydney is pretty different to theatre in Melbourne. Theatre is, by its nature, a very “here in the room” practice, and the nature of what makes up the hungry beast in the dark changes from place to place (as well as from time to time). There’s no guarantee that the same sympatico will work in one location just because it worked in another.

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  5. Hi Simon – Alison here. I think that’s a really important point! Theatre is parochial (in both the best and worst senses): despite things like NT Live, for the most part you quite literally have to be there. And, as with the Roman Empire, the real energy and vitality comes from the margins. That doesn’t mean that local work can’t be of international interest: thinking of the impact of Pina Bausch as exemplary. But that regional diversity is something that has to be treasured and nurtured.

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    1. Yes exactly. (Rob here) Theatre is largely a local and regional phenomenon. The days of the centralised broadcast model of theatre (and culture) may be drawing towards a close – at least for now. We tend to assume that historical and cultural development is a linear progression towards a final perfect state… of course it’s only our limited life spans that causes this illusion… as life itself is dynamic, swinging back and forth between stages which are shaped by the contemporary environment. Which is not to say that a national approach to culture has no value either, but instead that the job of cultural growth is never settled and must be responsive to its environments to survive…

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