Laura Ginters – Goodbye–Hello: Kate Howarde’s Possum Paddock on Stage and Screen

Presentation

Laura Ginters

University of Sydney

Goodbye–Hello: Kate Howarde’s Possum Paddock on Stage and Screen

Little remembered today, Kate Howarde was a pioneering actor, director, writer and producer, whose career lasted half a century, from the late 19th century, where theatre was the primary form of popular entertainment, through the era where film emerged and began to eclipse theatre, and indeed on into the 1930s. In 1921 Howarde adapted her highly successful play, Possum Paddock, and became the first Australian woman to direct a feature film (she also starred in it). Howarde was performing the future at the same time as she lived and worked it.

Thomas Elsaesser has claimed that “cinema was both a continuation of old media and the start of something new”. He was referring to technologies like the magic lanterns and kinetoscopes which preceded film, but we can potentially think of theatre as “old media” too, with cinema as one form of its continuation – goodbye-hello – while co-existing alongside it, and in a complex relationship to it. This nexus between theatre and early film, and in particular the relationship between actress-managers and early film, is under-explored, but as Duckett and Adriaensens suggest “it is precisely the established and tested practices of the nineteenth-century theatre that are embedded in the cinema’s distribution networks, promulgation of celebrity, range of acting styles and theatrical titles on offer”. Howarde’s work across these two genres through her play and later film offers a fascinating case study through which to explore questions relating to the creation and distribution of artforms, artworks and, indeed, audiences, in the early 20th century.

Laura Ginters is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies at the University of Sydney, serves on the Editorial Board for About Performance and Australasian Drama Studies, and is a member of the Seymour Theatre Centre’s Advisory Group. Her research into student drama in the 19th and 20th centuries includes (with Robyn Dalton) The Ripples Before the New Wave: Drama at the University of Sydney 1957-63 (Sydney: Currency Press, 2018). She is currently pursuing her interest in 19th century women in the theatre, investigating the enormously popular productions of Medea on the Australian Goldfields, as well as the remarkable career of Kate Howarde. 

Miles O’Neil – Hope in the Howling: A techno-affective analysis of Wake in Fright

Presentation

Miles O’Neil

Deakin University

Hope in the Howling: A techno-affective analysis of Wake in Fright 

Contemporary Gothic theatre practitioners in Australia are obsessed by the invisible and the intangible and are constantly seeking to cultivate an experience in the spectator which is dependent on stretching the imagination to the full. I argue that this drive to stretch the imagination is fertile ground for significant theatrical innovation, as was the case with the game-changing Malthouse production of Wake in Fright (2019). Through the casting of Zahra Newman, an immigrant woman of colour and the deployment of sound as protagonist as well as conjurer, the work usurped the masculine energy and blokedom of the original narrative, offering new ways of engaging the Gothic and exciting challenges to the Gothic’s more traditional use as a colonial framing device. 

Taking a techno-affective approach and drawing on interviews with the work’s sound designer, director and performer/co-creator, this paper analyses the sonic strategies at play, particularly the use of disparate tactics to simultaneously generate unsettling affects (states of trauma, shock, claustrophobia and fear), and the drive to immerse the audience in soundscapes that conjure disquieting psychological states. 

As Denise Varney notes, Wake in Fright eviscerated the novel’s dominant male voices (2019). I analyse the strategies used to achieve this gutting, arguing that new sound technologies and sonic experiments, when paired with the inspired casting of Newman, shift the focus away from traditional framings of the Australian landscape as haunted and instead focus on the toxicity and xenophobia inherent in certain ideas of Aussie mateship. The casting of Zahra Newman and the prioritisation of sound enabled the work to turn up the volume and roar of change and in doing so, the work offered a transformation of the Gothic from its colonial roots towards a postcolonial and transnational manifestation. 

Miles O’Neil is a theatre-maker, musician, actor and a lecturer in art and performance at Deakin University. With a PhD from the University of Melbourne, Miles has expertise in contemporary art theory, practice led research, Gothic studies and sound-led performance studies. As a founding member of multi award-winning performance group and band the Suitcase Royale, Miles has been presented in the Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Darwin, and Dark Mofo arts festivals in Australia and internationally in multiple arts festivals in the UK, Ireland, Germany, USA, Canada and New Zealand. 

Rachel Fensham – ‘Your white meat is DONE!’: animation and the future in Nakkiah Liu’s Blackie Blackie Brown

Presentation

Rachel Fensham

University of Melbourne

‘Your white meat is DONE!’: animation and the future in Nakkiah Liu’s Blackie Blackie Brown

Indigenous theatre is becoming mainstream, with shows written, produced and directed by Indigenous writers and directors regularly on television and in our major theatres. And as a result there is a diversification of the genres, concerns, characters and narratives being presented even as slow steps are taken towards any political shift in the reality of outcomes for indigenous Australians. How then might the aesthetics of Indigenous theatre in Australia contribute to a decolonising of the future, one of the conference provocations? 

Utilising black performance theory (Moten, DeFrantz and Gonzalez) and the imaginative potentiality of Afro-futurism (Eshun and Womack), this paper examines the animation of a decolonised future in Nakkiah Liu’s work, Blackie Blackie Brown (2018 and 2019). The paper arises from my thinking about the role that movement plays as a form of animation in performance for a forthcoming book. Animation, in the words of philosopher Jeff Malpas, has a double action, of seeming to move and ‘being seen to move in the movement’. In analysis of Blackie Blackie Brown, I argue that this double movement enables indigenous theatre to move away from the oppressive race relations of the past and of everyday reality in white Australia, towards a future that is seen from a stance in which that real is obliterated. Drawing comparisons with the artworks of Brook Andrew, Blackie Blackie Brown thus breaks new ground in its reach towards a form of theatre that borrows from popular culture, science fiction and fantasy to create a decolonised, fragmented and tensile, yet absurd and funny, representation of a future Australia. 

Malpas. J. (2014). ‘With a Philosopher’s Eye: a ‘Naïve’ View on Animation’, Animation: an interdisciplinary journal, Vol. 9 (1): 65-79. 

Rachel Fensham is Director of the Digital Studio, and a Professor of Dance and Theatre (Melbourne). With a track record in curating performance archives, most recently the Theatre and Dance Platform, she has recently developed CIRCUIT: a mapping tool for the ARC project, Creative Convergence: Enhancing Impact in Regional Theatre for Young People. She has a forthcoming book with Bloomsbury, entitled Movement in the Theory of Theatre Studies series, and is also series co-editor for New World Choreographies (Palgrave).