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Buried City – Belvoir and Urban Theatre Projects

Explore who owns the future of our city with Urban Theatre Projects.
By Rima Sabina Aouf
January 06, 2012
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Buried City – Belvoir and Urban Theatre Projects

Explore who owns the future of our city with Urban Theatre Projects.
By Rima Sabina Aouf
January 06, 2012
  shares
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Authenticity is no problem for Urban Theatre Projects (UTP). The Bankstown-based theatre makers don't make stories about the culturally marginalised; they make stories with them and through them. They place the community, both real and imagined, at their core and have crafted a 30-year legacy of memorable, mainly site-specific works in Sydney. These include last year's Stories of Love and Hate, a response to the Cronulla Riots, and 2010's Sydney Festival surprise The Fence, for which they invited audiences into a real Parramatta backyard.

For their current work, Buried City, they've called on community organisations representing African migrants and Indigenous Australians as well as trade unions to contribute to the development by watching and responding to early rehearsals. They've collected a dynamic, multiethnic cast of professional and non-professional actors, including "the troubadour of Redfern-Waterloo", Perry Keyes. And they've moved to a big, inner-city space that demands a response of its own.

Buried City is about the fundamental, nearly inextricable question of who owns the future and who's vision of the city is the one we build. One night in a gutted building primed for redevelopment, a gathering grows of people who work there and people who can't go home — security guards, a socialist worker who drinks and struggles to keep pace with the present, an Aboriginal youth who smokes pot and creatively interprets New Scientist, a couple of clubbers. For this group, the personal is very much political, and the interaction between characters drifts from the trivial, diversionary and casually curious into big issues in a very organic way. In the gaps between cultures, classes and generations, the play sketches some marked observations for this postmodern, post-unionised, pluralist, migrant city and others like it.

UTP's methodical observation is evident throughout: in the scaffolded set strewn with bongs and beer bottles, in the ignored hum of a security guard's walkie-talkie, and in the conversations between these unlikely companions. Belvoir's Upstairs Theatre is a revelation as this stripped-bare cavern, and an opening from the back wall into Belvoir Street proper brings extra immediacy and inner-cityness (and with the thunderstorm that crashed through on opening night, a particularly heightened sense of spectacle).

There's a circuitousness to both the drama and the conversation that can get a little frustrating. But don't see Buried City for the script; see it to get thinking about artistic process and how much debate can be thrown open when you expand the speaking list.

Image by Heidrun Lohr.

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