CMI (A Certain Maritime Incident). version 1.0 (www.versiononepointzero.com) at The Street TheatreTuesday October 19 - Saturday October 23, 2004, 8pm
CMI stands for A Certain Maritime Incident. CMI is thus an acronym for a euphemism, since A Certain Maritime Incident was the official title of the Senate Children Overboard Inquiry. As anyone who has dealings with the public service knows, acronyms are a language all of their own.
CMI is the title of the "smash hit stage version" of the Children Overboard Inquiry, which ran to full houses in Sydney last April. Opening here on Tuesday at The Street Theatre, after a second run in Sydney, will be a newly polished and necessarily updated version, which picks up on today's political situation. Even though Senator John Faulkner, a major character in CMI, has resigned as Opposition Leader in the Senate, he still has a chance to re-open the inquiry before next July.
Though you will laugh often, for example at Jane Halton's detailed use of the analogy of the blind man and the elephant to explain how information may be transmitted or may fail to be transmitted along the appendages of the bureaucratic hierarchy, you will also be surprised and saddened to know that the text of the characters' dialogue has all been quoted verbatim from Hansard's 2200 pages of transcripts.
The theatre company version 1.0 (www.versiononepointzero.com) is a professional collective of some of Sydney's "leading contemporary performance makers", claiming to have seven senses of humour. It must have tested all seven to the limits during the 9 months it took to work through the records of the 15 days' inquiry, many of which went past midnight. This work was led by writer/performer David Williams and dramaturg Paul Dwyer, who distributed books of transcripts to group members, then led workshops during the process, gradually refining the themes and selecting the characters for 6 actors to perform.
The result is political theatre at its best. Though no previous theatrical knowledge is required, this work draws on the strengths of a century-long tradition of making theatre relevant to its time using documentary material. As in the work of the film maker Michael Moore in Farenheit/911, the reality of the situation is revealed directly from the source.
Theatre-buffs will be fascinated by how the actors play in character, but drop out at times as if it is almost too difficult to play the role. In doing so they comment upon the roles these public servants and politicians play in real life, often just by using gestures like raising an eyebrow or holding their head in their hands. As one commentator noted the "language laden with acronym takes on a dark irony. A PII (potential illegal immigrant) saved from drowning is still a SUNC (suspected unauthorised non-citizen)."
One feature of the show is the use of lie detetection software and computerised speech in a pleasant female American voice which we all recognise. Another unexpected speech is made by Peter Reith as a young child. How you will respond to these devices can only be tested by seeing the show.
Among the cast is the Canberra educated Deborah Pollard who went on from performing with Tempo, Rep, Youth Theatre, TAU and her Wollongong University degree to work with The Jigsaw Company under Stephen Champion in the 1980s. She has studied with Tadashi Suzuki in Japan and teaches the Suzuki Actor Training Method, has been Artistic Director of Salamanca Theatre Company, and has created many solo works in Sydney. Her career includes awards of a Churchill Fellowship, a Rex Cramphorn Scholarship and an Australia Council New Media Arts Fellowship.
Pollard explains that CMI is not emotive "refugee theatre". It is an unbiassed examination of the inquiry process, an important night out where theatre is a voice for the community. It is, she says, "not pure entertainment, but entertainment for the mind."
For bureaucrats at all levels, perhaps with special relevance for people in Defence, Prime Minister's and ministerial staffers, the show is almost obligatory. You may be quoted or know the truth behind the dialogue. Already one scene has been altered in the expectation of possible legal action.
For political activists, CMI may be extra support or criticism of your cause.
For theatre-goers it will be good to see intelligent entertainment of this kind in Canberra.
CMI (A Certain Maritime Incident)
The Street Theatre (Cnr Childers Street and University Avenue)
Tuesday October 19 - Saturday October 23, 8pm
Tickets $30 / $20
Bookings 6247 1223
© Frank McKone M.A., F.A.C.E.
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