Are We Where We Are?
Shop Front Theatre, Coventry
Theatre Absolute has a reputation for enlivening, intelligent and innovative theatre at the Shop Front.
This is an ex-fish and chip shop in Coventry city centre, and the latest project which is based on the Henry David Thoreau quote “We are not where we are but in a false position” prompted Julia Negus and Chris O’Connell to commission six plays over the next two years.
First off, May Utang, by fiercely intelligent and funny playwright and performer Jules Orcullo, who describes herself as an Asian Australian, first generation daughter of a family who left the Philippines for Sydney, Australia in 1976 and who is now settled in London.
Her structure is beautifully simple and provided an elegant rhythm as a method to debunk the myths that are widespread about Australian culture: that “the land that is called Australia” is full of blonde, lazy, sex-crazed, racist bar tenders and no one else.
Before starting the project fully, her father and mother Felix and Evelyn, visited her in London and the conversation about being Australian was recorded to add extra voices to her monologue. This was an interesting idea that worked really well. I wish my family could discuss topics of importance with such clarity! But hey ho.
As she progresses, the mood becomes all together darker as each of the myths raised is analysed. Blonde – no she is not and not white though trying hard to become whiter than white and English by studying Jane Austen and the building blocks of English culture.
She makes the point that 600 nations make up Australia. Does everyone sit on the beach all day? She doesn’t, nor is she sex-crazed, racist or a bar tender; so not one of the stereotypes fits her. I remember Barry Humphreys explaining why he created Dame Edna Everage – as an antidote to the hard-drinking, male, crocodile-wrestling perception that he felt overrode that real spirit of Australia.
George Bernard’s view is always worth hearing. Travel, he says, is to better understand the country you left – and if we are not where we are, where are we? It’s a confusing world currently and it’s possible that “in a false position” is the only absolute certainty.
Next, as part of the series, is I am here on 7 June, 7.30pm at the Shop Front Theatre.