peteg's blog - noise - theatre - 2009 10 13 Version1.0 BouganvillePhotoplayProject

Version 1.0: The Bougainville Photoplay Project — A slideshow with fireside chat

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I figured it might be worth heading back to the Old Fitzroy Hotel on the strength of the last Version 1.0 show I saw, viz The Wages of Spin. (I felt this theatre lost the plot a few years ago.) The company's schtick is to highly orchestrate and slickly integrate multi-media with traditional theatrical mechanisms, exploring topics in more depth than the average Smage article without being precious.

Well, pretty much as billed. Paul Dwyer's solo performance is heartfelt, effective and convincing. It is a bit indulgently sentimental, but forgivably so as the stories are deeply personal, often focussing on Dr Dwyer senior's visits to Bougainville as an orthopedic surgeon in the 1960s. The production was as I expected, seamlessly stitching the monologue to video, photographs, newspaper clippings, and miscellaneous props. Even with all this stuff, the skillful lighting made it clear where one's attention should be.

Unlike East Timor, the story of Bougainville goes mostly untold in Australia, perhaps because few really want to think about our, or anyone else's, post-colonial activities, but more likely because it is now generally unknown that Papua New Guinea was a colony of Australia until 1975. Roughly the troubles in Bouganville during the 1980s and 1990s were all-too-familiarly due to the locals not receiving an adequate share of the mineral wealth of their own land.

This show promised to explore the mechanics of restorative justice and reconciliation in the rapidly changing cultures of that part of the world. I felt this came off less successfully than the treatment of other topics, and was a bit disappointed that the theatrical recreation of such an event was the limit of the substantive material. It left me with no clear idea about what makes these processes possible, or how much they might be at odds with Western culture and notions of justice.

Ultimately this monologue is a show-and-tell public lecture, albeit more immersive and performative. I guess this is something that might strike a chord with an older audience that directly experienced town-hall style activities that don't take one to be a fool or party hack. As such it felt a bit weird to pay to attend it, and for there to be no question-and-answer at the end.