Australian Theatre History. The Australian Performing Group at the Pram Factory

Margot Lindsay

 

I joined the APG before it even had a name, when we used to meet at La Mama on Sundays, with the idea of setting up a theatre company. Once we had a name, we dreamed about having our own truck, with the name emblazoned on the side.

 

APG was where I learned that theatre has politics, that everything has politics.

 

I learned that theatre is culture, the current culture, your culture. Honing a sense of cultural "Australian-ness". Seeing the audiences build, drawn to their own culture via our presentation. Feeling their support, their belief in our right to express a theatrical perception of our shared culture, even in the face of opposition from the state's moral representatives, the Vice Squad.

 

I remember the feeling of "Tribe". These were the people with whom you spent most of your time. They were more than your family.  You worked with them, had sexual relations with them, played with them, went on holiday with them, and fought with them.

 

The sense of release, of opportunity. The invitation to all of us, at a Sunday rehearsal at La Mama, in the very early days, to sing into a microphone, with a juke-box backing - I don't think I could release very much, but I loved being around those who did, like Meg Clancy, and the feeling that I might. The importance of "text". The words of John Romeril, Alex Buzo, Jack Hibberd becoming our words.

 

A new perspective on the concept of "work" - it was hard work, but it was ours. The rewarding feeling that you have done something, created something, tried, experimented - work satisfaction: making masks for street theatre, rehearsing our formations in the park opposite Graeme Blundell and Kerry Dwyer's house in Carlton St., rehearsing in the summer's belting heat and sparse shade of Breamlea beach. APG was my baptism into the world of performance, and I've subsequently spent most of my life since, working in and around it.

 

1970 - the sense of having "arrived", the sense of "troupe" as we boarded the plane on our first funded trip to WA for the Perth Festival of the Arts. A gaggle of us, a sense of occasion, a sense of worth, and recognition, that what we were doing made sense to others, to those with the purse-strings. The cocktail-parties where we were celebrated guests, albeit a little weird. A sense of "ensemble" - that the experience is not just about you, it's about the whole. A sense of excitement about what we could compose, compile- together.

 

For me, not a sense of knowing where we were going with the work, but excited to be part of the experiment, theatrical, social, etc. Hearing, watching others in the group reading the overseas theatre theory/literature that informed their theatrical direction, and to a large extent, ours. The discussion, arguments, conflicts. Unfamiliar and frightening to me, who had been taught from a young age to run from conflict, run low to the ground with your ears back. At the APG, conflict was part of the discussion, and inevitably affected attitudes and working relationships. Some of the conflict, I understand, persists to this day!



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The Myer Foundation

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