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

Rose Chong

I thought I might try my hand at the thoughts or reflections upon the life of my APG days- That was where we met after all.


I’ve been amazed at all the mythologizing that has gone on in recent years. My recollection was one of complete anarchic chaos most of the time- when even the simplest of tasks- the ordering of the toilet paper for instance- required a group struggle session to decide who should do it.


At the time that I joined the Pram Factory I was heavily pregnant, which was assumed to be the result of rape or oppression- it was social death to confess to being happily married- in fact I don’t recall any other conventionally marrieds and up the duff. In my case I think I was excused the opprobrium(!) normally dished out because I was impregnated by an ethnic- of course African would have been better but Chinese still scraped in.


The Pram Factory for me was the Women’s Movement, International Women’s Year and women’s uprising signs everywhere - which was why issues such as the toilet cleaning had such heavy political baggage. MEN had to clean the toilets, and if a woman did it there was men’s oppression writ clear for all to thrash out at the next collective meeting. There were issues such as why do men make such a hash of the job- if women can do it better isn’t that just years of conditioning- I can remember Max Gillies cleaning the toilet the moment before he was due to go on and (I nearly said ‘star’) participate in The Hills Family Show I think. It was meant to be a leveller.


There was also a feeling that costumes couldn’t possibly be the highest aspiration anyone could have and I was always being urged to have the confidence to try for a part in one of the shows - I’ve never wanted to perform and always loved costumes but I was told by the group that I shouldn’t allow myself to be put down by agreeing to do the frocks again. I should think more highly of myself. I think this came from the practice of allowing disappointed actors to do the frocks as a consolation prize.


Frocks and props were always going missing, due to the junkie population but we were never allowed to lock anything up for fear we give out a message of distrust within the group.


My friend who introduced me to the group was Rose Costello who lived in a house with Helen Garner and Shuv’us and Greig Pickhaver was always there. I met Rose because we had kids at the same school and we shopped at the Victoria Market where she worked at the Health Food Stall.


The Pram Factory group was the first group of people I met when I came to Australia and I was always grateful to them for accepting me and allowing me the freedom to be a costume person in the end.



Rose Chong has remained a costumier. She runs one of Melbourne’s largest independent businesses working in film, television, theatre, and the corporate world.

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