Wednesday, 18 April 2007

A Fortnight across the border from the wine region, I mean in The Country

OK, back from Albury, oh land of the strange invisible biting insects and the great lack on network access that lies conveniently close to the Rutherglen wine region. It was too tempting, and on a particularly uncreative day (for any funding bodies who might read this, it was Easter Saturday - even artists who work for free most of the time are allowed to have public holiday weekends) we succumbed to temptation and headed out in the HotHouse van to sight see and wine taste. Viognier does somewhat improve creative processes in my mind, despite (or perhaps because of) the 15% alcohol.

So, back home now, much to the relief of my skeptical little black cat Stella, who likes her humans not to be gadding about being creative, but rather staying at home patting her. But only when convenient for her of course. Oh, to be a cat...

The wrap up? Well, to be honest we weren't as productive as we hoped, but after the insanity of our Wharf 2 Loud gig in February we probably didn't need to be (how many artist collaborations do you know that are able to devise a coherent hour-length performance from 8,500 pages of Royal Commission transcript in 8 days?) Still, despite being unsurprising and quite acceptable, it was disappointing. Every devising process, at least in my (limited) experience over the past decade, has gone through a phase where the big questions that animate the project need answering, but no one has a clue exactly what the answers might be, despite knowing that we'll all know it when we see it. The HotHouse residency was a bit like that for us - two weeks with the co-presence of the collaborating team, two weeks filled with questions that we can't quite answer yet. And yet, two weeks in which the stakes of the project are becoming clearer. It's clear that the AWB kickbacks scandal is a far less visceral and emotive issue than 'children overboard', and let's face it, extended discussions of contract negotiation and approvals hardly make for riveting theatre. So this is a different operation to past work, with new and frightening theatrical challenges. As is to be expected. But, in my experience at least, I find that I enter a new project (naively) expecting that the expertise gleaned from the pain of the last project will carry me through. That I'll solve the problems from the last show, now I know what they are. But each new project of course throws up new problems, new challenges, and I find that everything lurking in my (short) sleeve isn't of much use. It's a relentless and exhausting process of back to the drawing board, again and again. As I (seriously) joked in an interview in February: "Sometimes it feels like it might be easier to knock over a brick wall with my head." And as my head is shaved, this will involve a lot of blood. Scalp wounds bleed a lot, as I found out doing a bump in for the Sydney Dance Company back in 1997...

Small steps from the country retreat then. Small steps, impossible questions, loads of location video footage (lots of bone-dry wheat fields), some proto-staging ideas, some more research and editing, and a new title: deeply offensive and utterly untrue. In short, a new beginning, and opening night isn't until August 24th...

Safe for now at least. As Morris Iemma stated of the NSW Labor Government in the run-up to the recent state election: "More to do, but moving in the right direction." And just quietly, I reckon we might just be able to do a better job than them...

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