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

James McCaughey

My own perspective, other than being an observer of plays, was formed by and limited to use of the Pram Factory as a performance space. And I must say that I have always thought that it was an act of conspicuous generosity that the APG let me use the space straight after Marvellous Melbourne (as I remember it, we were the second show in) to stage the production of The Bacchae. Then some three or four years later, we were again permitted to use the theatre for the Oresteian Trilogy, then after that again, we split the theatre with Lindzee Smith for Waiting for Godot, and then finally there was Baal in the Back Space.


Speaking simply from a selfish viewpoint (in theatre? Never!) I can only say that without the artistic freedom offered by that space, its scope and gesture, the "feel" that it could let a production take on,  the position that it had in society and its locality at that time, I doubt that those works would ever have had whatever success that they had, or that my own career would have developed in the way that it did.  In fact I know that they wouldn't.


And indeed the acquisition, maintenance, exploration and presentation of the Pram Factory as a space seems to me a very important aspect of the life of the Collective (and I presume that John Timlin's role should be suitably honoured in that).  For a while Melbourne had in it a point of reference, a place which could lead style and encourage others to do so, a place of performance which was very much part of the locality in which it was found, but in which the special could also happen.  In that sense as in so many others, the Collective contributed to the life around in a way that has recently seemed foreign or unattainable.


One amusing memory for me was on a night on which the (probably excessive number of) lights which we had imported for the Trilogy blew the electric system right out of the sky.  Somehow or other (God knows how) we finished the production with candle light. The curious thing is that I remember no great recriminations from the Collective the next day.   It was just something that had happened and we all found our way forward. It was as if the whole space was itself an improvisation.  And that is a feeling that, in light of retrospect, and given where we are now, seems both charming and strange.



James McCaughey works in theatre and teaching


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