Living history in the present

Sue Moss




This production is an exchange of surreal and fragmenting stories performed by the improvisation group, The All Audreys. Drawing on collective skills in music, dance, free form improvisation, clowning and visual art, Exchange was devised by these mature performers as a sequence of solos, duos and quartets.

Leigh Tesch, Sally Edith, Helen Swain and Andrea Breen interact across the starkness of the Backspace performance area. They reminisce, observe and comment, sometimes standing or sitting against blank walls that function as a reference point for alienation, fear, and despair. The unembellished space also accentuates the recurring theme of exchange.

The All Audreys’ narrative invokes the 1950s Menzies’ government family of conformity and religiosity. The performers unashamedly refer to the political and cultural stirrings of the 60s that became embedded in 70s theoretical frameworks.

Andrea Breen’s viola bow slices the air like a lure, strongly suggesting the Pied Piper of Hamelin. She beckons and entices children, while her words “Jesus loved little children” offers a discordant play on a text resonant with familiarity.

Exchange provides a panoply of oral and aural histories. The highly interactive imagining, physicality and intermittent craziness creates an interpersonal dynamic informed by aloneness. These stories shift from the personal and spill into the malleable and abstract realm of culture. While Exchange makes this connection apparent, the impact is occasionally lost in glib references to contemporary issues including the Cornelia Rau case, the Asian Tsunami and Dafur.

Lea Tesch’s physical improvisation is uncompromising in its evocation of paranoia, highlighted by television images of faces screaming “ratbags” and “communist.” The All Audreys’ emphasis on this aspect of their collective storytelling re-creates the fears of the 1950s that infiltrated and oppressed many Australian lives. Such scaremongering remains a potent force in John Howard’s Australia, but The All Audreys diffuse the fear of uncertain times by surreally linking families with animals. The question, “are you a dog family or a cow family?” counteracts the impact of sloganistic threats.

Exchange continually hints at the impact on people’s lives when individuals and a society are unable to embrace diversity. Despite some of our more infamous racial policies, no culture can remain mono-cultural.

The All Audreys situate their perceptions of self and the world through a cacophony of stories that inlcude the restraining events in the lives of the performers. Exchange evokes memory as present tense. “Anyone there?” asks Sally Edith. “No I’m not and I never was” comes the response.

The All Audreys, Exchange, performers Leigh Tesch, Sally Edith, Helen Swain, Andrea Breen, Hobart Fringe Festival, Backspace Theatre, February 12-13

RealTime issue #66 April-May 2005 pg. 426

© Sue Moss; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 April 2005