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

YOU HAD TO BE THERE- 

Perhaps it began with a yearning to excavate, perhaps with a need to remember before it was too late. Or maybe bringing this website to birth was just entirely selfish and utterly egocentric for I want everyone to know what extraordinary lives were lived and what blessed talents were nurtured in the phenomenon that was known as the Australian Performing Group (APG) at the Pram Factory, Carlton, an inner city suburb of Melbourne was where this building sat. I was part of it. There are many, many others who also walked through those doors. Some came with burning ambition to be actors, others who didn’t have a clue what it was they wanted; some came because their friends said they could get them a job there, others were invited to join; some came and stayed but a short time, others were in for the long haul; some couldn’t see the future but others thought it would go on for ever; some came and made liaisons which produced partnerships and children, others found themselves breaking apart in their relationships and giving up children. But all of us knew, at that moment in history that we wanted to be a part of the energy there. These memories that are laid before you represent a large cross section of the Collective Memory. I asked people to be as personal as they could, I was not interested in a long run down of what they had done, so much as what had happened to them, and how it had affected them. Some of the contributions do not go very deep and end up being a re run of events, but most of them are articulate and revealing. Looking back from here to there, some thirty years has given us the wisdom of hindsight and perhaps our perspectives have mellowed and that makes us more forgiving of ourselves and our youthful behaviours, but for some the memories are close and real and still cut deep. 

What has emerged is not only a personal history of the Pram Factory but also an extraordinary documentation of the social history of Melbourne, specifically Carlton in that memorable decade of the seventies. The subsequent diaspora of the APG Collective members has been both geographical and professional. Some went on in their chosen art form to become the best of their generation. Others chose completely different career paths; some sank into oblivion choosing anonymity or even teaching! Some never again felt the conviviality and sense of belonging that the Pram bestowed. Others were glad to be rid of the weight of it, the interminable meetings, politicisation and Collectivism.

The Pram building was sold at public auction after a long protracted struggle to keep it going. Where once lived the Collective and whence came the theatre that we made there are now a Safeway’s supermarket, shopping mall, and cinema complex. The Ensemble, the last ditch solution to the dying Collective, lasted but a year. The last play was directed by long term member, Richard Murphet and performing in that production was Bill Garner, an original member of Collective and determined to stay on the sinking ship.

 The APG had ten years of full-on rising energy. It came through a crack in the earth and like molten fire it rose up the spine of the city spreading out to different limbs, burning away old ideas and outmoded forms and it kept rising, up through the heart where it burst out, creating stars everywhere: circus, music, writing, performance, improvisation, puppets, art, costume, film, video and architecture. It was hot and alive and the heat stayed in until, through the natural shifting process of energy, it began to cool down, gradually stopped moving, became still and returned to earth. One branch however has remained above in the light, one wild tree that keeps reinventing itself- Circus Oz.

 Letting go is as important as creating. I felt that I couldn’t let it go until I had finally honoured the memory of it. Here is that memory and I thank all those who had the courage to go there.

 

Sue Ingleton

 This website is open to more information! If you have something to contribute please contact us.

susoulo@bigpond.com

This website was developed by Suzanne Ingleton, with the support of the 
Australia Council for the Arts(research) and The Myer Foundation(website).

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