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

Red Symons

 

I always list working at the Pram Factory as one of my credits because those who worked there held themselves in sufficiently high esteem that their view has been made to pervade even to this day. In truth, although my first paying job as a performer was in the front

theatre, and I was the musical director of the play that closed the Pram Factory, I was never a member of the Collective.

 

Martin Armiger came over from Adelaide with Tim Robertson to do their musical, " A Night in Rio and Other Bummers ". Their bass player got scared and couldn't make it so, since I played a similarly shaped instrument, I was hired. The only things I can remember about the show were that Kerry Dwyer appeared naked and did a cartwheel (too much information), and that, in line with the socialist principles of the Collective, everyone got paid the same amount except me. I have never since had the desire to play the bass.

 

I did a couple of other things in the back theatre as an "associate member" - always a bridesmaid. "The Ride across Lake Constance" by Peter Handke was an actors delight because after two months of rehearsal and performance there were " still things to discover in the text " - read - " so fucking abstruse that we had no idea what was going on ". Then there was Steve Spears' " Africa " which was more your light ent. - songs and sketches

posing as a work.

 

I enjoyed the people at the Pram Factory even if they did invest far too much meaning and worthiness into what they did. I am thankful that I was not a member of the Collective and was spared the meetings. Is it not unsurprising that actors set upon each other when put together in a theatre and robbed of a real audience to play to? There seemed to me to be far to much emphasis on purpose - but I'm a musician and music has no purpose, it's just play.

I played in a somewhat theatrical band in the back theatre in the early seventies and we were perceived as being satirical. That same band played weeks later in Broadmeadows, in Melbourne’s deep west, and we were perceived as being the Skyhooks. The punters didn't seem to feel the same need to deconstruct.

 

For all the prattle, the bravest political statement was made by Peter Cummins, who left a life as a 35 year old teacher of plumbing to live and work with a bunch of people in their early twenties who needed something to do when they left university.

 

The most maligned was Graeme Blundell - you do one carry-on movie and the

whole world turns against you. Mind you, Blundell can have a comical, self-promoting streak. I did a Brecht with him at the MTC and he had his own photographer in to rehearsals because, as he said, he who has the documentation gets to write the history. But credit where credit is due - he did write all of David Williamson's plays.

 

The most under-rated turned out to be Greig Pickhaver. We all enjoy using H.G.'s maiden name now because we knew him back when he was the electrician.

 

I was the musical director and composer for the production that closed the front theatre, "The Bedbug Trilogy" by John Blay. In the true spirit of the Pram Factory, there were letters to the Melbourne Times suggesting that using the " Save the Pram" funds to put on a play was profligate. Perhaps the funds could have been better used to reconvene the Collective and debate the best use of the funds. Some people just love an argument

Biography

Red Symons used to have a job in television now he only threatens us aurally



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