A mild night after a sweltering spring day caught some punters unaware – and PACT is traditionally one venue for which you don’t want to forget your cardigan.

You could be forgiven thinking that PACT’s second suite of Fringe offerings should not be called “Program B” but rather “The Wollongong Invasion.” The majority of the works hail from Wollongong University graduates – a powerful throng of theatre makers inspired by the likes of Chris Ryan and Tim Maddocks.

On the night I attended, the need to find dinner and an obliviousness to the 6pm start of the program meant I missed an intimate affair in the form of “Spinning a Yarn.” This was recommended to be by Anni Davey at the Australian Theatre Forum and is the exception to the Wollongong rule. I will endeavour to catch it at a later date – but for this post, as it is, I will respond on the evening’s three other offerings.


According to the program notes George Perec (who was a member of an experimental writing group and the author of a novel which did not use the letter ‘e’) answered the challenge “to see if anyone could write a novel using a computer’s mode of operation.” And so a piece of writing was born. One without capitals, punctuation or full stops.

and so it is of little wonder that this would catch the eye of nathan harrison an artist who many may recognize from his work with applespeil a collective of devisors whos work i have only just started to follow after brief encounters at the underbelly arts festival

the recent line of enquiry is around text and so this is a lovely addendum or tangent to the companys developing work

so there we are as a fishtank bubbles and gurgles in its own existence squares of carpet on the floor an overhead projector a rolled up screen a table with liquids and a cd player

i have no idea what to expect

when he begins to address us it is clear that this is an instruction manual for approaching our heads of departments for a raise and that we are being taught the recipe for a successful venture into financial renumeration

the awkwardnesses in the text are really that the money referred to is francs a solid marker of time and place for us aussies in the post millennium turn it is at that moment i am a little miffed that harrison hasnt used more of his powers of artistic reinvention furthermore i am surprised he is so loyal to the text

the value of this work like that of ionesco is to illuminate the foibles of human thinking and action like that of beckett the effect of listening to such a piece is actually very exhausting and some felt the fatigue of it as i did

if we listen to the looping of the story we start to see that the anxiety it conjures in the audience is like that of the task of asking for a raise we become restless and agitated we become useless and aware of our own inaction and therefore the irony of such a request pokes through

if we spend that much time thinking about how to ask for a raise clearly we are not working to capacity and therefore dont deserve a raise

its clever but painful

as a premise and what harrison adds is a certain casual cool to it which makes it unbearable as it should be

this is the theatre of cruelty to the audiences attention span


Somehow PACT has managed to transform the space in that short time (and may I say wow – that’s a venue that really delivers service to its artists).

On stage is what can only be described as a beige box – cream coloured carpet and curtains – the perfect depiction of middle-class hell. A phone is ringing. We encounter a woman (Aileen Huynh). She pulls back a corner of the beige hell to reveal an empty room – no chair or table. Just carpet and a phone.

We watch and listen as her iPhone is both instigator and mediator of action. She receives calls from wine merchants, she plays games, records herself speak, takes phones, shines lights; it’s quite the advertisement of the many wonderous attributes of an iPhone. And then the sharp twist when it finally dawns on us that such attributes are also an enslavement – and that whose purpose is to connect, ultimately disconnects us. At times very cute, others very funny, sometimes very clever and very creative.

This is on the whole a very tightly delivered and considered piece well worth a look. Devised by Aileen Huynh and Mark Rogers with dramaturgical assistance from Sanja Simic there is a lot of care taken to keep this episodic adventure interesting. There are many flights of fancy – many minutes of self-entertainment – many different apps and phone features featured: and thankfully there is a message.

I suggest that this piece can go a little further into surprising us – drawing out more of the personal, or the minute or the tragic – and ask the question “what if we took the performativity out of this? What are we left with? What happens when the phone is unplugged/out of battery/broken? What if she was enclosed in a perspex box and couldn’t get out or reach for a chair? How does that change the self-inflicted exile?” Raise the stakes and you’ll raise my heart rate.

It is indeed wonderful to see Rogers risk big by personally venturing beyond the safety of a text’n’paper process, and he has done a magnificent job wrangling the energy of Huynh. Huynh’s performance was a surprising (welcome) departure from her work in A Night at The Rangoon and working with Rogers has clearly brought out her skills and stage presence.

I look forward to seeing more of Roger’s work.


When we re-enter the space we are invited to step over a large mound of earth. I’m not wearing good shoes (never wear to the theatre shoes you can’t run in) so I don’t mind. The Set from Gobbledygook has been appropriated and canabalised – there’s mess and chaos – a nice flip from the last piece’s tidy hell.

Written by Dennis Kelly, Debris is, in someways the more conservative of PACT’s programming choices. Directed by Sanja Simic there is a bold and ready energy about this production – both performers Michelle Anthea Savage and Matthew Abotomey are ready to go there. Go where? Where ever they need to. It’s gritty. It’s dark, it’s brutal. And seems very long.

After a three month process what we witness seems to be a thickening of Kelly’s script – a thickening which seemingly slowed the pace of the scenes themselves. It’s a bold undertaking – and there seems to be (from the directors note) a genuine desire to play and discover – but with such an open text the desire to play and discover can dwarf the aim of the game – to tell a story to people who have never heard it before in a way which is spontaneous and comprehensible. In fact I started to not care about the text and would have perhaps preferred to watch a 45 minute version of the performance without the text. Sometimes a decision must be made – is this production about playing or is it about the play?

I’d love to see what Simic would do with an empty space, three actors and 6 weeks to create a work. I wonder what she’d come up with…


All in all the focus and dedication of these artists is inspiring and exciting – the willingness to put oneself forward and say something about the world is again a very worthy cause. Interesting that all of them contained so much direct address and accompanying declamatory presentational performances.

Sometimes it is very easy to let the visual (action) interrupt the sound (text) – and the director’s task is to keen this in balance and orchestrate the pace of the work and keep our attention. Not all pieces have managed to find that balance – and it’s a tricky thing to achieve – the temptation is to make a choice and go for it, but both have to be considered and weighed.

Again – congratulations to the team at PACT for presenting a diverse array of emerging artists and for such slick facilitation. The Fringe is a tricky gig (for everyone) which is only made bearable by accommodating venues, and PACT surely is one of those rare places.