Catalogue of Dreams – devised theatre for the Canberra Centenary 2013 by Urban Theatre Projects, based in Sydney. Co-Directors: Rosie Dennis and Alicia Talbot.
Performances at Courtyard Studio, Canberra Theatre Centre.
Previews: Saturday July 13 and Tuesday July 16, 8:15pm
Opening: Wednesday July 17, 8:15pm
Season: Thursdays – Saturdays July 18-27, 8:15pm
Preview by Frank McKone
The history of Urban Theatre Projects can be seen at
the group’s 30 years of work explains why Centenary Director Robyn
Archer approached Alicia Talbot more than two years ago for a theatre
piece from Sydney, as part of the program of works representing a wide
range of Australian local communities for the celebration of Canberra,
the nation’s capital.
Rosie Dennis tells me that Catalogue of Dreams
is ‘contemporary theatre’, collaborative and ‘devised’ – different from
the standard convention of an audience watching a performance through a
'fourth wall'. The audience in the Courtyard Studio will find
themselves integrated in the acting space as if they are in the Family
Court with the young Canberra people who find themselves in difficult
Though for many theatre-goers in
Canberra the tradition of this form of theatre – going back to at least
Carol Woodrow’s company Fool’s Gallery in the 1970s – will not be a surprise, the keyword for this production is the Dreams of the title. As a Centenary piece, there are two aspects which make it clearly ‘different’.
instead of showing off something that represents the community where
the theatre company resides, such as we saw in the Northern Territory’s
contribution, Wulamanayuwi and the Seven Pamanui by Jason De
Santis, Talbot and Dennis have worked here for some 12 months with local
performers starting from issues that face young people dealing with
bureaucracy and the law.
The result is a scripted work,
now in solid rehearsal as I write, largely written up by Dennis, which
is entirely appropriate in the Canberra context – raising concerns for
us about the centre of government 100 years on – while also being
relevant to audiences around the country. Anyone who has ever had to
explain again and again to, say, Centrelink officers, to police
officers, to lawyers or in court hearings who they are, what has
happened to them, what they did and why, will appreciate this show.
But rather than this becoming another kind of ‘reality’ show, what Catalogue of Dreams
reveals is the disjunct between the playful dreamlike fantasy world
which is natural to teenagers, still naive and childlike in so many
ways, and the formal situations demanded by the system of laws and rules
of behaviour which constitute the ‘adult’ world. Here is a universal
theme, applicable to any human society as Wulamanayuwi showed us
in the Tiwi Islands. For anyone caught up in fraught circumstances, the
experience is surreal – as it will be for the audience in the Courtyard
space when this drama opens on 17th July.
performance, the work is essentially image-driven – not so much in the
form of multi-media presentations but rather through creating images in
the minds of those observing through text and story, voice-over and
devices such as masks. In this sense, it seems to me, this Urban
Theatre project is not so different from the long tradition of street
theatre going back to the commedia dell’arte of centuries ago, with its
combination of humour and absurdity, now in a modern context.
Though personally I’ll be travelling – perhaps following my own fantasies – while Catalogue of Dreams is on stage, I feel disappointed to miss what should be a fascinating and significant production.
© Frank McKone, Canberra