Arts / Theatre group reaches out to the community

Alison Plevey, left, and Cara Matthews ponder a “Moving Climates” problem.

AS part of National Science Week, a dedicated group of Canberra theatre practitioners is developing an original work about pressing environmental issues.

Rebus Theatre, founded in 2013 by director Robin Davidson, actor/muso Ben Drysdale and Canberra Academy of Dramatic Art graduate Cara Matthews, aims at creating theatre for social change, turning the spotlight on contemporary science, marginalised members of society and people with disabilities.

“CityNews” caught up with co-director Davidson just after the company completed its first day of creative development of the new work, “Moving Climates.”

Rebus has run theatre classes addressing disadvantage, teamed up with the Mental Health Foundation ACT to do a work about trauma, hosted a variety night in celebration of International Day of People with a Disability and run workshops for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

A “rebus”, we learn, is a puzzle where pictures are used to represent words and the company has perfected the use of “forum theatre” where participants practice real life skills in an entertaining way. In short, this is not showbiz.

Davidson is one of the real stayers in Canberra’s theatre scene. A member of Canberra Youth Theatre from age 10 to 18, he went on to a theatre media course in Bathurst, where he performed in schools, prison and the wider community. After living in Sydney, Coffs Harbour and the Philippines, he returned to the ACT to focus on giving a human face to theatre.

“Moving Climates” is in line with this, “trying to listen to the stories of climate scientists, how they feel about their work and how they feel about being reviled,” he explains, as he outlines the process by which he and Drysdale, as co-directors, have worked with Matthews, dancer Alison Plevey, digital artist John Carolan and composers Ruth O’Brien and Adam Thomas in responding to the experiences of scientists, some of whom have had death threats.

“We go to that human story,” Davidson says.

Rebus steers away from stereotypes, using a series of interviews with scientists as the basis for the new work. Audiences will see their faces on a screenscape devised by laser technology whizkid Carolan, but whether their names and work positions will be screened is up to the scientists themselves, who have had to deal with cynicism, and campaigns of abuse and attack.

Davidson stresses that it’s not a conventional play, although there are some narrative scenes, but rather a development involving six paid days in a rehearsal space.

Davidson and Drysdale are aiming for about 30 minutes of performance and 15 to 20 minutes of feedback. The ultimate aim will be to stage a fully realised production, for which they will seek ArtsACT funding and/or crowdsourcing.

“We are reaching out to the community,” Davidson says, “but this needs to be in a theatre because of the projections – we are reaching out to people who don’t normally go into the theatre situation.”

“Moving Climates”, Ralph Wilson Theatre, Gorman Arts Centre, Braddon, August 17, 18 and 19. Bookings to


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