Thursday, 22 August 2013

7-On Goes Bush

Last week, we had our first big 7-On Sleepover: five days together in Albury-Wodonga, courtesy of HotHouse’s Month In The Country residency for artists. The project we were focused on is (working- title) ‘Platonic’, an examination of what friendship means. When it comes to story-telling, romantic relationships get plenty of airing, as do family relationships. But that staple of human existence, friendship, is often overlooked. And as we found in Albury, it is an infinitely rich subject.

I don’t want to give too much away here because it’s still developing in the darkroom of our collective minds (don’t open the door!), but apart from the great fun of hanging out with buddies for the week, and getting to know each other better even after eight years working together, what was extraordinary is how deep one can go given time and space. We’ve been working on ‘Platonic’ for a year, and it even had a rehearsed presentation courtesy of Augusta Supple and some terrific actors as part of NIDA Independent last November. But in a few days, being together intensively and talking, talking, talking, we plunged into new territory – weird, funny, sad, sinister... the place beyond easy answers. We also were able to exercise possibilities, to really question ideas we’d previously accepted at face value.

How precious are these resources: places for artists to retreat briefly from the Outside World and build beyond a three-hour meeting or a one-day rehearsal. Thank God for them, and may they thrive and last. The last decade or two has seen a swathe of regional theatres wiped out – which has had a devastating effect not only on the communities who relied on them to tell their stories (as opposed to the occasional touring blockbuster presented by regional arts centres), but on Australian playwrights, who cut their teeth there. Let’s hope that whoever gets into power on September 7 remembers that a society without art is not a society worth living in.  

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