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urban theatre projects

The Fence, Urban Theatre Projects The Fence, Urban Theatre Projects
photo by Heidrun Löhr
In 2011, Urban Theatre Projects will be 30 years old. It is a feat of incredible resilience, which itself is an enduring theme of their work. In 1981, Kim Spinks, Paul Brown and Christine Sammers founded Death Defying Theatre. Ten years later, artistic director Fiona Winning (1991-95) relocated the company from Bondi to Auburn and then to Casula. In 1997 John Baylis (1997-2001) took over the reins. The company changed its name and moved to Bankstown in 2001, where it is still based. This archive focuses on UTP’s more recent history, documenting the era associated with artistic director Alicia Talbot (2001 onwards), rather than her predecessors (whom we will cover when our archive is completed back to 1994. Eds).

There are three discernable strands to Urban Theatre Projects’ work over the past decade. First, there is Talbot’s body of work as a director—Cement Garage (2000), The Longest Night (2002), Back Home (2006), The Last Highway (2008) and most recently The Fence (2010). Sitting alongside this corpus is the more spectacular work UTP has developed with collaborators, for instance Mechanix (2003) with designer Joey Ruigrok van der Werven, Karaoke Dreams (2004) with Katia Molino, and Plaza Real (2004) with Branch Nebula, as well as [email protected] (2002) with the Western Sydney Indian community. Finally, there are the performances produced by solo and/or emerging artists whom UTP has mentored, auspiced, or generally supported in some way. These include the intimate performances of Brian Fuata in Fa’afafine (2002), Valerie Berry in The Folding Wife (2007) and Ahilan Ratnamohan in The Football Diaries (2009), as well as the performed oral histories Fast Cars and Tractor Engines (2005) and Stories of Love and Hate (2008), directed and devised by Roslyn Oades.

Of course the distinctions are not as clear-cut as this and these threads overlap, braid together, and sometimes tangle. Though Talbot cautions against seeing “aesthetic cohesion” where there is none, together the artists involved in these projects have examined the politics and poetics of resilience. Time and time again, Urban Theatre Projects has explored who becomes marginalised, how and why; but rather than talking about marginalised subjects, UTP prefer to talk with them through community consultations, running workshops and mentoring emerging artists. More importantly, UTP enables people to speak not only about their lives, but also about life more generally—as one collaborator remarked, “my social and political opinions and ideas about the world.” Through their many productions we have come to know many modes of resilience: modest, contingent, defiant, temporary, permanent and sometimes triumphant, but rarely in the way we expect.

The irony of pioneering an aesthetics of resilience through theatre is that it’s the least ‘resilient’ art of all, which is where this RealTime archive comes in. It’s a focused collection of our best profiles, images, interviews and reviews. They might prompt your memory if you were there or jealousy if you weren’t, but above all else they will make you think—as Urban Theatre Projects does—about how the world works within theatre and theatre works in the world.
Caroline Wake


innocents retrieved
david williams: the fence

game: life and art
caroline wake: the football diaries

learning to listen
caroline wake: stories of love and hate

roads to despair
bryoni trezise: the last highway

one woman in many: survival and resilience
jan cornall: the folding wife

urban theatre projects
jo litson: UTP then, now and next

journey into the unexpected
bryoni trezise: back home

all in the re-telling
david williams: fast cars and tractor engines

to shop, to die (for)
keith gallasch

the fun of fakery
bryoni trezise: karaoke dreams

towers of power
keith gallasch: mechanix

the winner: urban theatre projects
realtime: the myer awards, melbourne

on the cross-cultural beach
margaret bradley: girl by the sea

escape route
jeremy eccles: the longest night

post: letter to the editor

a nice, nasty night out
will rollins: fa’fafines


joey ruigrok van der werven

alicia talbot

RealTime issue #0 pg.

© Caroline Wake; for permission to reproduce apply to [email protected]

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