Good afternoon. Welcome. I’m Ms Augusta Supple and I am a graduate of the University of Sydney’s Performance Studies department.

All those years ago I was immersed in a department whose focus was/is viewing performance (please note the word “performance” – as opposed to the word “theatre”) from an ethnographic point of view. I very casually involved myself with the identity of the “academic ethnographer” as I saw myself (or had aspirations of being…at least in my involvement in SUDS) as a practitioner sitting inside the goldfish bowl of academia. I thought if I was outside ethnography – I was inside practice (and no, it doesn’t work like that – if you are outside academia, it doesn’t automatically thrust you into the realm of practice.) It has taken me many years of struggle to recognise that my unique position in the theatre community (no, Ms Croggan, I assure you, I won’t use the word “industry”) is that of practitioner who feels like an outsider in my own field part practitioner part ethographer in my slashy identity as a theatre documentarian (read “blogger” – yes an ugly word, Mr Waites) /producer/new Australian play activist/artistic director/writer/commentator.

It is right and just for a ethnographer to introduce myself, my context, declare my aims and in doing so create my own “web of meaning.” I will declare that this production (remount? – version?) of The Bougainville Photoplay Project is my first contact with the work of version 1.0. Though I had known David Williams for some time, first witnessing his work in The Second Last Supper, reading his blog, knowing him from foyers and inviting him to my shows as a colleague – I had not engaged with the work of Version 1.0 mainly to do with timing of my own shows/work. I had also not had Paul Dwyer as a lecturer during my degree, nor seen his work as a performer. I had also heard that this show had touched and transformed many friends and colleagues who had attended the Old Fitzroy run earlier this year. I wasn’t going to miss it again.

From cafe discussions in 2004, this photoplay project has been evolving and developing with every airing – every incantation – every pilgrimage. Described by Jason Blake as ” Pitched somewhere between cosy university tutorial and travelogue slide show [it] is an illustrated account of restorative justice in action” and by James Waites in a very personal account “I was born on Bougainville Island, where my father was a medico through the 1950s; and so spent my earliest years growing up there. There is no shaking off the bond any of us feels for the place of our birth – and so I have followed, as closely as I have been able, the saga of Bougainville’s suffering over the past thirty-five years. With a weeping heart and a quiet fury.” This is a story which demonstrates a type of theatre which is simultaneously international and domestic, personal and political, academic and accessible, public and intimate.

Punctuated by cups of tea and sneaky ascensions into his mother’s attic – Dr Dwyer is on a pilgrimage to see the impact of Australia, the impact of his father’s work, the impact of ethnography in the continuing dialogue between peoples. And this dialogue includes the occasional French turn of phrase and rapid-fire Pidgin English, Australian vernacular, academic anthrogological vernacular, medical terminology – a selection of letters, emails, video, family slide photography, live camera feed, audio, ads made by the Australian government, the diary of a thirteen year old, field notes, medical journal, newspaper articles, powerpoint, two versions of an ice-breaker flip chart – all the scraps and remnants of a life/time/place, collated and collaged into a show. Dwyer weaves the political – the recent history , the story from 2004, and forty years prior. Memory and artefact are framed, reshaped, represented. We are left with the resounding responsibility of our actions as a nation whose history with confronting and committing to reconciliation is not impressive. Infact, it is shameful.

But don’t expect an earnest lecture from a formidable intellect – asking us to hang our heads, Dr dwyer has not come to condemn. He has come to report, to make sense of our history, to provide fact, to provide perspective – not to be a righteous dictator. Not to even create a World vision appeal for financial support. This is not a show which is about guilt. It is about action. It is an appeal for compassion and understanding. Like a boy who views his father (and the work of his father) we, the audience are viewing the work of our political forebears. It is easy in such circumstances to be bored by history as a young person. How often have we all ignored the stories of our grandparents of when they were young – mentally stamping them with “irrelevant” in our minds – only to realise later what a gift that story was? How often have we not engaged with our past (and it is a shared responsibility) thinking that it had nothing to do with now, and here? Reconciliation on a domestic and political, personal, international level is absolutely our responsibility. It is not “other people’s business.” As David Suzuki said in his recent lecture in Perth (and I am paraphasing here… but you can check out the talk on
that as indigenous people have always known – we are linked to the earth- and as scientists have proved we are bio-chemically linked to each other through the air. We are inextricably linked together. Why then, are we so resistant to reconciliation? What are we afraid of?

I have always believed that performance is personal. Politics is personal. It means something to witness this show. To sit in the audience is to be included in the discussion. To be mindful of our power as protagonists in healing. To be respectful of our past, to learn from our (collective national and personal) mistakes, to be ready to identify our prejudice- to own and acknowledge our righteousness and arrogance and ignorance enough, to be open to the pursuit of genuine engagement and therefore improvement… and eventually reconciliation.

This show closes on Sunday 28th November. Please, see it, not because it is worthy – but because it is genuinely inspiring.