Thursday, March 29, 2018

Black is the New White

Black is the New White by Nakkiah Lui.  Sydney Theatre Company at Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse, March 28 – 31, 2018.

(This production premiered at Roslyn Packer Theatre, Sydney on March 1, 2018.  The original production premiered at Wharf 1 Theatre on May 10, 2017.)

Director – Paige Rattray; Designer – Renée Mulder; Lighting Designer – Ben Hughes; Composer and Sound Designer – Steve Toulmin; Voice and Text Coach – Charmian Gradwell.

Ray Gibson – Tony Briggs; Narrator – Luke Carroll; Marie Smith – Vanessa Downing; Dennison Smith – Geoff Morrell; Joan Gibson – Melodie Reynolds-Diarra; Charlotte Gibson – Shari Sebbens; Francis Smith – Tom Stokes; Rose Jones – Nakkiah Lui (replacing Miranda Tapsell for the Canberra season); Sonny Jones – Anthony Taufa

Reviewed by Frank McKone
March 28

There is a special sense of coming together in this new form of comedy of manners.  It is both a romantic comedy, but also a questioning comedy.  What does it mean to be ‘black’ or ‘white’?  Lui’s highly sophisticated writing says it’s very funny.  Standing ovation kind of funny.  Seriously exciting kind of theatre.

Looking at Black is the New White from the white side, as I inevitably must, I see a picture which reminds me of when I was a £10 invading Pom some 60 years ago.  I was fascinated then by my culture’s 18th Century cartoonery and social commentary pictures.  William Hogarth comes to mind.

             An Election Entertainment featuring the anti-Gregorian calendar banner "Give us our Eleven Days", 1755

I came to understand that to see the whole picture, I had to accept equally all the diverse characters in Hogarth’s typically crowded scenes – from the grotesque to the ‘normal’; from the low class to the high.

L-R: Anthony Taufa, Vanessa Downing, Luke Carroll (above), Shari Sebbens,
Geoff Morrell, Melodie Reynolds-Diarra, Tony Briggs, Miranda Tapsell, Tom Stokes
in Black is the New White by Nakkiah Lui

Joan Gibson's Christmas speech
Photo: Prudence Upton

Nakkiah Lui’s picture of today’s middle class in Sydney – black, white and Tongan – is as humorous a view as Hogarth’s and brings me up to date.  Though I was an unwitting invader at the age of 14, I feel better about being here now, thanks to the many Aboriginal playwrights and performers whose work I’ve seen (and some reviewed here and at ) from the days of the National Black Theatre in Redfern which I attended in 1973, through  Jimmy Chi's 1990 musical Bran Nue Dae and many others, to Nakkiah Lui. 

The first work of hers I reviewed, Kill the Messenger (February 20, 2015) was beyond impressive.  Black is the New White thoroughly establishes her place among our great writers on the Australian stage.  She makes the crossover between cultures understandable and acceptable.  Lui is an enormously generous writer.

The quality of the production of the play goes without saying, after last year’s success at Wharf 1, though I would have liked to have seen Miranda Tapsell (not to disparage the author’s performance here in Canberra).  I first noted Tapsell’s acting while she was still at NIDA, in Dallas Winmar’s Yibiyung ten years ago, with Wesley Enoch directing, and later in Louis Nowra’s Radiance, directed by Leah Purcell, and would love to have seen her here in such a different role.  Tapsell’s story alone shows where Indigenous theatre is travelling.

Luke Carroll, Miranda Tapsell, Anthony Taufa
Photo: Hon Boey

In this rehearsal picture, you see not only Miranda Tapsell (Rose) and Anthony Taufa (Sonny), but an important figure in the background, Luke Carroll as The Narrator.  From her Indigenous culture, Lui has clearly drawn upon the storytelling tradition in this dynamic character, but also on the idea – regarded as new when Tennessee Williams wrote The Glass Menagerie last century – of a member of the family standing aside from the action to explain to us outsiders what is really going on inside.

While Tom tells much of his own story in The Glass Menagerie, director Paige Rattray writes of Black is the New White, in answer to the question  “What can the narrator be and what can’t it be for it to work well here”,  The improvisations were useful.  We pushed that character to see how far he could be involved in the world of the other characters.  We found a few little moments of overlap, but it’s actually much better if he is outside the reality, observing.  He’s more connected to the audience than he is to the characters.

I found The Narrator especially important in two ways.  The first is as a simple device for changing scenes as one bit of the story ends and another begins.  But this character knows all the little details of the family members’ behaviours, do’s and don’ts, wishes and real intentions.  He is absolutely Aboriginal, though so well dressed in ‘white’ suits.  He moves as if dancing (including with a front-row audience member!) and talks with a glint of humour in his eye.

I found myself imagining The Narrator as a kind of ghost-figure, but the opposite of a Kadaitcha (the harbinger of death).  This Narrator is the epitome of life, both romantic and questioning – but never with rancour.  Observing, yes – but to me, at least, he is much more, connecting the audience to the characters.

If there’s a parallel in my culture, it must be in the independent clownish philosophers in Shakespeare’s plays, but never with the cynicism of a Jacques.  It’s at this level that I place Nakkiah Lui’s art.

Director Paige Rattray with playwright Nakkiah Lui during rehearsal
Photo: Hon Boey

42nd Street - Free Rain

Review by John Lombard

If only it was possible to become a star by being nice, hard-working and ferociously talented…

42nd Street is a glamorous Cinderella story of Depression-era Broadway, with the indestructible optimism of the characters bursting out in catchy songs and energetic tap-dancing.

When legendary director Julian Marsh (Jarrad West) decides to stage new musical Pretty Lady, it means something more than glory for the chorus: it means 32 bucks a week. With the stakes set as either bounty or the breadline, Marsh reluctantly accepts diva Dorothy Brock (Louiza Blomfield) as leading lady to secure funding from her sugar daddy Abner Dillon (Michael Miller).

Director Chris Baldock’s intense passion for this musical infuses Free Rain’s new production with a necessary vitality that coaxes us to surrender to the fantasy of a euphoric “Lullaby of Broadway”.

We buy into this dream because of Sophie Highmore’s performance as star struck chorus girl Peggy Sawyer.

Highmore is a genuinely amazing dancer: when challenged to show off her tap skill in a dance duel, she conquered both her opponent and the audience.

Worse, the character is really nice - happy to be a “speck of dust” in the chorus. In real life we would be plotting her death. But Highmore’s strong singing, dancing, and character make it impossible to hate her. When the chorus decide to democratically elect the new girl as their leading lady, we believe it.

Highmore is balanced by an exceptionally strong performance from Louiza Blomfield as diva Dorothy Brock. Brock is Peggy Sawyer’s main obstacle to stardom, but Blomfield elevates her above villainy. Although a diva who is vague on lines and blocking - and a danger to herself and others on the dance floor - she is a brilliant singer and even Marsh acknowledges her star power.

The production is very kind to Brock: there is a soft acknowledgement that actors rarely do their best work when the director doesn’t want them in the show, and Brock receives ample opportunity both to shine as a star and redeem her mistakes.

Real-life director Jarrad West here plays demanding director Julian Marsh, but is more Jarrad than Julian: he says gruff things, but always sounds a shade too patient and gentle. West compensates for a bad wig by making it part of his character with fussy and vain adjustments. He gives a welcome note of blithe darkness when he calls in some mobster pals to solve a problem for him with the ease of dabbing a stain.

Sam Ward as tenor and notional romantic lead Billy Lawlor impressed with his clear and strong singing voice and bold presence, but was not quite persuasive as a lover. He played a good caricature of a leading man, but his overtures to Peggy Sawyer always seemed showy and insincere. Both Lachlan Agett as the company’s dancing master and Greg Sollis as Dorothy Brock’s lost love were more genuine, highly alert and sensitive to the moods and actions of the people around them.

Musical veterans David Cannell and Debra Byrne were a perfect comedy double act as the creators of fictional musical Pretty Lady, their relationship hinting at an entertaining comedy taking place just off stage.

The choreography in the show was perfectly pitched for the highly rehearsed performers, and had good focus on using smaller groups well. The opening wet the appetite in cinematic style by showing us just dancing feet, and the big numbers were often used to subtly tell the story: showing how klutzy Dorothy Brock is with the ensemble, or using the finale to dramatise Peggy Sawyer’s triumphant emergence as a star.

The sets were straightforward but effective, with glitzy costumes keeping the sparkle and glamour of the show mobile.

42nd Street is a fantasy of Broadway: even the mob is kind of cute. Another director might have found the material worn, but Chris Baldock's inspiration captures the show's optimistic grit, making this classic feel fresh and alive.

The only reason you wouldn’t like Free Rain’s production of 42nd Street is if you don’t like happiness.  But even then, this production might change your mind.


Book by Michael Stewart & Mark Bramble
Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes
Music by Harry Warren, Lyrics by Al Dubin
Musical Director: Nick Griffin
Conducted by Ian McLean
Directed by Chris Baldock
Free Rain Theatre at the Q Theatre, Queanbeyan to 15 April

Reviewed by Len Power 28 March 2018

‘42nd Street’ was a huge success on Broadway.  Opening in 1980, it ran for over 3,000 performances.

The simple plot concerns a chorus girl from apparently dull and boring Allentown in Pennsylvania who steps into the starring role to save Broadway show, ‘Pretty Lady’, when its star breaks her leg.  Chris Baldock’s high energy production captures the spirit of the 1930s with good characterizations and one spectacular musical number after another.

The cast are uniformly excellent.  As the chorus girl from Allentown, Sophie Highmore is believable and delightful as the naïve young woman who can dance and sing better than any leading lady.  Jarrad West gives a fine performance as the tough director of the show, Julian Marsh, and Sam Ward performs singer-dancer, Billy Lawlor with great style and assurance.  Louiza Blomfield plays the temperamental diva, Dorothy Brock, without resorting to cliché and gives us a rich characterization that is very human.  Karina Hudson, Debra Byrne, David Cannell and Michael Miller are all terrific in the supporting roles.

As good as the leading and supporting players are, it’s the chorus of this show that makes the biggest impression.  In number after number, this large group sing confidently and accurately.  They dance Michelle Heine’s excellent choreography with extraordinary energy and enthusiasm.  They must be the fittest actors in town.

Strong musical direction by Nicholas Griffin has resulted in good vocal performances by everyone in the cast and Ian McLean’s conducting of the large orchestra produced a distinctive and pleasing 30s era big band sound.  Many of the costumes were obtained from the CLOC company in Melbourne but Head of Wardrobe, Fiona Leach, has done an excellent job adding to and co-ordinating the large set of costumes for the company.

The Q Theatre has no fly tower so that puts limits on a set design for this complex show.  The set by Martin Searles and Susie and Steve Walsh, working to Chris Baldock’s design concept lacked interest and some set pieces didn’t work well at all.  There were also some opening night glitches with lighting and sound.

Nevertheless, this is a really spectacular and highly entertaining production that shouldn’t be missed.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7’s ‘On Stage’ program on Mondays from 3.30pm and on ‘Artcetera’ from 9.00am on Saturdays.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

LA BOHEME - Handa Opera on the Harbour

By Giacomo Puccini

Directed by: Andy Morton -  Conducted by:  Brian Castles-Onion
Set and Costumes designed by: Dan Potra – Lighting designed by Matthew MarshallChoreographed by: Kate Champion – Sound Designed by Tony David Cray
Video designed by: Marco Devetak
Fleet Steps, Mrs Macquaries Point until 22nd April 2018
Opening night performance on 23rd March reviewed by Bill Stephens

Part of the setting for  the HOSH production of "La Boheme" 

1968 was an eventful year. An exhibition currently on show at the National Library of Australia commemorates the 50th Anniversary of when the Library opened its doors to the public in 1968.  It was the same year in which riots swept through the Latin Quarter in Paris almost bringing the government to its knees. It is also the year chosen by Andy Morton and his designer, Dan Potra, for the setting of their production of the “La Boheme”, in which the riots are referenced in the third act which takes place in a street strewn with rubble and car wrecks, one of which is still burning.

Julia Maria Dan (Mimi) - Ho-Yoon Chung (Rodolfo)
The challenge of staging an opera, most of which takes place indoors during  the winter, is neatly solved by Potra’s multi-level design which allows the audience to observe the action from both the interior and exterior of the Parisian garret occupied by Rodolfo and his friends. The garret is furnished with op-shop finds including a blow-up chair and dilapidated leather chesterfield. It has a huge overhead window on to which are projected images, most effectively during Puccini’s famous hit-songs, “Your Tiny Hand is Frozen” and “They Call Me Mimi” both which were superbly sung and acted on opening night by Julia Maria Dan (Mimi) and Ho-Yoon Chung (Rodolfo).

Simon Gilkes as Parpignol floating above Sydney Harbour in "La Boheme". 
A snow-storm (Yes really!) heralded the beginning of the second act, which takes place in a bustling market-place in front of the café Momus. Acrobats and stall holders spectacularly ply their trades, while a toy vendor named Parpignol (Simon Gilkes) floats overhead apparently suspended by multi-coloured balloons. 

Musetta (Julie Lea Goodwin costumed in dazzling silver sequins and sporting flaming red hair) arrived in a paddy wagon with her escort Alcindoro, (John Bolton Wood) and after a thrilling rendition of “Musetta’s Waltz”,  decided to create havoc to attract the attention of Marcello (Samuel Dundas).

Julie Lea Goodwin (Musetta) - John Bolton Wood (Alcindoro) 
"La Boheme"
Act three begins with Mimi wandering through the snow in riot torn streets where she discovers Marcello and confides in him that Rodolfo, overcome with jealousy, has deserted her. Later, standing in the snow below a window, she overhears Rodolfo tell Marcello that he is worried that Mimi is seriously ill and may not have much longer to live. As Rodolfo leaves the building, she attracts his attention, and together, sitting in a car wreck, they reaffirm their love for each other.

Julia Maria Dan (Mimi) - Ho- Yoon Chung (Rodolfo) 
"La Boheme"
The final scene in which Musetta discovers the dying Mimi in the snow and takes her to Rodolfo’ s garret, should be the most moving of all, but, on opening night, the too bright lighting design robbed it of atmosphere. Also, both Mimi and Musetta were hampered by unflattering costumes in this scene. The result being that despite excellent singing, especially Richard Anderson’s fine interpretation of the “Old Coat” aria, the cast struggled to achieve the level of pathos necessary in this scene to bring the opera to its memorable conclusion.

Julia Maria Dan - Ho-Yoon Chung (Rodolfo) 
in the final scene of  "La Boheme"

These blemishes aside, this production of “La Boheme” is a remarkable achievement. Tony David Cray’s miraculous sound design which achieves superb balance between the brilliant   vocals and the thrilling richness of the Brian Castles-Onions orchestral sound, together with Andy Morton’s inventive direction, Dan Potra’s imaginative sets and costumes, and the breath-taking Sydney skyline, provides an unequalled spectacle which has to be experienced to be fully appreciated.  

Act 11 - "La Boheme" 

Act 1 - "La Boheme

                                                          All photos by Prudence Upton
This review also appears in Australian Arts Review -





Conducted by Leonard Weiss
Soloists: Tobias Cole, Louise Page and Sarahlouise Owens
Llewellyn Hall 24 March

Reviewed by Len Power 24 March 2018

Canberra Youth Orchestra’s first concert for 2018 was an ‘Opera Gala’ with a fine program ranging from arias from Handel and Gluck to Von Weber, Donizetti and Verdi and some modern-day Kats-Chernin as well.

The program commenced with the finale of the William Tell Overture, rousingly played by the orchestra.  Then counter-tenor, Tobias Cole, took us into Handel territory with the first of three items from ‘Julius Caesar in Egypt’.  He sang ‘Va tacito e nascosto’ (Silently and Stealthily) with great feeling, accompanied by the fine trumpet playing of Samuel Hutchinson.

Tobias Cole was then joined by Louise Page for ‘Caro bella’ from the Handel opera. Their expert and emotionally truthful singing of this duet where Caesar and Cleopatra sing of their love for each other proved to be one of the highlights of the evening.

Tobias Cole
Sarahlouise Owens’ singing of ‘Sempre Libera’ from Verdi’s ‘La Traviata’ was thrilling and thoroughly deserved the thunderous applause from the audience.

Sarahlouise Owens
The second half of the concert commenced with the orchestra playing Ernest Giraud’s ‘Carmen Suites’ from the opera by Bizet.  The Intermezzo was especially well-played.

Louise Page
Louise Page showed what a fine actress she is with her sublime performance of ‘Il dolce suono’ (the Mad Scene) from Donizetti’s ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’. She was accompanied superbly by Serena Ford on flute and the combination of voice and instrument was magical. The concert finished with all three soloists singing the celebratory ‘Brindisi’ from ‘La Traviata’ with great gusto.

Leonard Weiss and Canberra Youth Orchestra - Photo by William Hall
The orchestra under the baton of Leonard Weiss accompanied the singers very well throughout the concert, especially the demanding recitative sections.

This was a delightful concert with three of Canberra’s most distinguished singers and a pleasing range of music from baroque to contemporary.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7’s ‘On Stage’ program on Mondays from 3.30pm and on ‘Artcetera’ from 9.00am on Saturdays.


Review by © Jane Freebury

One of the earliest films by the Turkish-German director Fatih Akin was called Head-On, released in 2004. It was tough and compelling, pulling audiences into the intense orbit of its star-crossed lovers who were trapped as only people caught between two cultures can understand. I was transfixed and have continued to look out for his work ever since.

Head-On is easily confused with the Australian film of the same name, Ana Kokkinos’ film of 1998 with Alex Dimitriadis as a troubled young Greek-Australian. By fascinating coincidence, both films explore life in the cross-cultural space, and are somewhat similar in tone.

Besides this latest film, In the Fade, Germany’s entry in this year’s foreign language Oscar, Akin’s most high profile film so far would be The Edge of Heaven, a drama detailing the complicated life in Germany of people of Turkish descent. Parallel worlds, you would say.

From his base in Hamburg, where he was born and raised, it is natural that Akin should have these concerns. His perspective is not always dark. He created a good-natured neighbourhood diner party out of his 2009 film, Soul Kitchen, but In the Fade does return with pessimism to vexed cross-cultural issues that concern us all.

It is played out across the finely chiselled features of blonde German actress Diane Kruger. Her face is the canvas on which the drama is performed after her husband of Turkish descent, Nuri (played by Numan Acar), and their little son Rocco are the victims of a bombing targetting the family business. Katja’s face fills the frame as the tragedy takes hold.

As she waits for confirmation, police take toothbrushes away from the family home to determine IDs, then return, within hours of the crime, with their questions. Katja’s parents and in-laws and friends in attendance are against the insensitive timing of this interrogation but she allows it. Why? Is it because her instincts tell her straightaway who the perpetrators are?

Katja remembers a young woman she spoke to outside her husband’s office minutes before the attack. She was parking her bicycle. It was new, but she wasn’t securing it. Strange, Katja thought, and the hunch is sound. When the matter goes to court, with her lawyer friend Danilo (Denis Moschitto) handling the case for her, things do not pan out as they should.

The evidence incriminating the young neo-Nazi couple who are arrested and charged with the crime appears to be reasonably sound, but the court proceedings take a perverse turn that pulls you up short. Clearly, the film intends to show how someone might feel and act when the system appears to be stacked against them.

Moreover, the reactions of her own mother and mother-in-law have already revealed a telling lack of empathy for Katja’s predicament. Though she does have the support of close friends, including Danilo in court – and maybe even some possibilities waiting in the wings?

Increasingly, however, and despite signs that there is hope the case can be reviewed and there are possibilities for renewal, she seems to grow more and more desperately – and scarily - alone.
Katja does give the impression of being something of a rebel. The drugs, the plentiful tattoos, including the tattoo of her circle of commitment. And there is the strong suggestion that neither her parents nor Nuri’s truly approved of the match.

In the Fade is told in three chapters. To begin with it is raining, continuously, heavily, like a tropical downpour, until the sky clears on Katja’s trip to Greece, when blazing sun appears like a bold horizontal wipe in the editing. The relentless clarity of the bright Mediterranean sunshine could bring on renewal, or a different kind of clarity altogether.

Taking its title from the song by an American hard rock band, Queens of the Stone Age, apparently, In the Fade is a perilous journey of the soul. It makes me wonder what the late German filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who also consistently explored the plight of marginalised people, would make of the politics of Germany today.

It is a tough film, graced with a fine performance by Kruger, but the emotional authenticity that she portrays, doesn’t seem explained by the arc her character travels, particularly the surprising events in the courtroom that drive her to the final act.

In the Fade is a portrait of despair, well told with a powerful central performance, but such an inexorable journey that we are desperate to come up for air after the final frames.

Rated MA15+, 1 hr 46 mins

3 Stars

Also published at Jane's blog, and broadcast on ArtSound FM 92.7

The Stevenson Experience: Spot the Difference

James and Benjamin Stevenson
The Stevenson Experience: Spot the Difference, created and performed by Benjamin and James Stevenson.  At The Street Theatre 1, Canberra, Saturday March 24, 2018.

Reviewed by Frank McKone

Ben and James Stevenson in
The Stevenson Experience

Now that I’ve stopped laughing, this is serious.  Despite one review a year ago of their earlier show Identical as Anything (“Their songs are catchy enough, but the content of their comedy is overly puerile and questionable..." by Joe Dolan, The, the Stevenson Twins, in their new show this year, Spot The Difference, still have catchy songs and puerile jokes – but that’s the point of their comedy.

How puerile indeed is so much of what purports to be ‘social’ on the internet.  The audience, mostly about the same age or a bit younger than the 28 the boys claimed to be, seated around time-worn me, got all the details of the jokes – many of which I missed – because they recognised the teenage-bitch quality in themselves.  In my maturity, I’m not on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, and the Stevensons have made be glad I’m not.

Of course, I recognised myself in the Stevenson parents’ text messages and emails.  Like them I like to be precise and careful about what I write, as well as making the occasional Dad and even Grandad apocryphal joke, though I hope I’m not quite as gormless as their father seems to be.

So what makes their show worth going to?  The serious answer, considering Benjamin’s insistence throughout the show that he is an intellectual and it's all about Art, would be the Menaechmi by the ancient Roman playwright Plautus.  In that play the twins are separated when young when their father takes Menaechmus to another country on business.  After their father dies, their grandfather, with the other twin in the original country, renames Sosicles ‘Menaechmus’.  As adults in a third country, chaos (ie comedy) reigns as people can’t tell the difference between the two Menaechmi.

The Stevensons have not been separated, so their experience is about their growing up together – looking alike to the degree that Ben took James’ driving test, so James had a driver’s licence for ID purposes with Ben’s photo on it; and so had to use Ben’s photo for his passport.  But, he discovered, German face recognition software saw the difference – with chaotic comic consequences, on a par with Plautus’s plot.

So what I like about The Stevenson Experience but not
is that it has something of a play about it, more than standard stand-up comedy. 

The twins play characters in a story which reflects on the lives of young people in the internet age in contrast to the past.  Time becomes a philosophical question, since James was born 30 minutes before his brother Ben.  They live in Sydney, but James insists that Ben is really in Adelaide (where the Central Australian time difference is 30 minutes behind Eastern Australian time). 

Of course, this sort of argument is puerile (literally from the Latin meaning ‘childish’), but the silly argument is funny because it is silly – yet it has implications for Ben’s feelings of being put down by James (especially because Adelaide is seen as a less than exciting city compared to Sydney, and we Australians all get the joke). 

Fortunately, as in Menaechmi when the identical twins finally meet, the Stevenson twins clearly get along – they couldn’t possibly write and improvise so well together otherwise, and the comedy has a happy ending, which deserves all our applause.

Benjamin Stevenson and James Stevenson

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Platform Papers No 54 by Sue Giles

Young People and the Arts: An Agenda for Change by Sue Giles.  Platform Papers No 54, Currency House, February 2018.

Commentary by Frank McKone

Expectations around theatre for young people are prescribed and the barriers to exploration and risk taking are many and high. Adults who bring children to works for young people have strong opinions on what is acceptable; and yet, and perhaps because of this concern, the arts for young people are not highly valued as art....

We work with and for a demographic that has no buying power or whose buying power is indirect and in the power of others.  Demanding recognition of the importance of this audience and of the merit of the work created for this audience is
a constant issue for the sector, whether we are outright activists or rely on our work to speak for itself in the world.

To appreciate what Sue Giles, Artistic Director of Melbourne’s Polyglot Theatre might mean by An Agenda for Change, I went to the website at to discover what her company does to put into practice what she means when she asks “Can we consider the child as a cultural citizen? Can we challenge the dominant definition of the child and consider a different one, where the child is the key to a more engaged sector and a more inclusive society?”

There I found videos of what I regard as exemplary presentations of forms of theatre for the very young, often including the attending adults, in which the children were clearly engaged in the action, initiating where the storyline might go, and therefore learning about drama by doing it themselves, guided by frameworks set up by the adult actors. 

If this is “seeing the child as a cultural citizen”, then I’m all for it.  I have in the past consistently been critical of the sorts of shows mentioned in Chapter 4. Content:

“There is a school of thought that says children’s theatre must have a particular aesthetic: colour and movement, slapstick, happy endings, simple story lines, engaging characters, costumes and songs. Blockbuster touring works like Disney on Ice, but also home grown works like Wiggles in Concert or High5, fulfil this brief and are considered purely entertainment for children and families. Distraction is central to this form of entertainment and it’s for this reason that ‘entertainment’ is seen as distinct from Art.”

Throughout the Paper Giles provides a series of definitions to frame her discussion, an overall rationale, and chapters:

1. The Landscape for young people and the arts – then and now.
2. Questions of value.
3. Our point of difference.
4. Content.
5. Artistic practices that are shifting the ground.
6. Shifting our thinking: Showing adults what is possible.
7. Conclusion, in which she states:

“If we, adults, can begin to hear clearly and without judgement the opinions of children, see clearly and without bias the ways children choose, we might start to
understand how the jigsaw will be more complete when children are involved. If we can accept the knowledge and power of young people in the creation of art as equals in the journey then our art will be the better for it. They know things that we don’t and we can benefit from their shared knowledge. So let’s do that. The artists exploring in the TYA sector in Australia have a handle on this that can open the door for others, and not just in the arts.”

In the end, Sue Giles’ Platform Papers No 54 is a detailed and highly valuable statement of advocacy.  The focus on this aim, however, limits her argument to assertions and descriptions, without showing more exactly how to turn the “handle on this that can open the door for others, and not just in the arts.”

Currency House at  has a webpage link to Paper No 54, and I will follow up Sue Giles’ important work with further discussion of the principles behind drama method which is focussed on the participants having agency in practice – in theatre work for, with and by the young, rather than at the young.  This will be available shortly in an extended form on my blog – search for Drama Education Principles - Platform Paper No 54.