In the unassuming heart of Carlton is a theatre called Shopfront.

For those with momentary squinting eyes and furrowed brow who chime in with mysterious low tones “where’s Carlton?” (some think I’m talking Melbourne, some perhaps the area around the old brewery site on Broadway) – Carlton is a suburb on the South Line – a stop past Rockdale. It – like many theatres in Sydney is a converted space- a shopfront no less- which houses programs, shows and workshops for Under 25’s.

I made my way there on Friday night to see what the six month long artslab residency had yielded for the artists. Simply called “Three” the night was three works which were overseen by theatre director Michael Piggott.


Gallery written and directed by David Buckley is a multivoice/cross platform/ installation collage of intersecting stories. Feeling at times like compiled solo performances- featuring music, stakes, an exercise bike, fairytales and construction rubble this piece is like a collision of stories from five people. Housed in the covered vesitbule area of the venue- this is like a foyer interruption but with greater forethought and inventiveness. Within the stories themselves is a feeling of yearning and loss, of fear, and robust tension between action and inaction, memory and lack of memory, constructed identity and true self. Surprising, confronting and very confessional Buckley’s piece uses the direct address of the ensemble (Ashley Burgess, Laura Carolan, Lloyd Harvey, Brianna La Rance & Roman Smoliakov.) to great effect whilst supported by Ashley Crook’s Sound and multimedia design and with support from movement mentor Bronwyn Turnbull.


The Slugabed Progressions, written and performed by Sam Dalley is a bizarre and challenging work about being overwhelmed. Using Puppets (mentor Herbert Peppard), Sound Design (mentor David Kirkpatrick) and Film (Holly Thompson)- this is a very ambitious piece housed in the white wing of the theatre space and there is alot to take in- and indeed I am sure that is the whole point. Dalley is a charming and likable performer- with a profusion of ideas- some which made me laugh very hard- some which may have needed more incubation time or refinement- but surely that is what experimentation is about -find out what is too much and not enough/ what you are capable of/ what the audience is hunger to understand/ what is too much of gilding the lily so to speak.


Words they Make with Their Mouths written and performed by Tim Spencer is a more traditional presentation of text based work – a one man monologue, this is a story simply told about a complex conglomerate of characters- 16 all up. At times it was tricky for me to keep a hold of the story as the 16 characters fold and morph- and sometimes I yearned to hear one voice leading me through one story, regardless this is a masterful , intelligent piece of writing- elegantly performed by Spencer. It speaks of love, unrequited and realised, lust, power, competition and the dilemma all these present. Poetic and frequently funny- I found the vulnerability of the characters most compelling and tender.

The most important thing an artist- emerging or emerged can have is time and space- and Shopfront has provided both to three very hardworking artists who have clearly invested alot of themselves and their time in their practice. If the aim of the scheme is to ready emerging artists for a lifetime of practice- this is a necessary space for them to discover when things don’t work- when things fall apart-when the show takes on a life of its own. And that is a huge act of bravery- to say- I am going to create something to squeeze all my time into it and hope that it works.

My hope for the artists is that there remains a curiousity, a rigour and an honesty in their work which sustains them beyond the performances into a life of passionate enquiry and generous creativity.