Aspen Island venture – looking for the ‘centre’ of Canberra

ASPEN Island Theatre Company’s venture, The Public Theatre, came to a climax last night with the conclusion of “Four Day Oedipus” and a VIP soirée to mark the 12-day event that has seen part of Civic Square transformed into a Greco-Roman theatre.

Dr Greta Hawes talks about Greek theatre

Dr Greta Hawes talks about Greek theatre

The “Oedipus” presentation was a moved reading, an effective  iteration of this famous play by a dedicated group of actors, headed up by Dene Kermond playing the tragic Theban King.

Preceded by a talk from the ANU scholar Greta Hawes which turned the presentation in to a kind of demonstration – a pity I thought – the reading was presented in a schematic way, umiked, with the strains of “Jingle Bells” emanating from City Walk and dramatically underscored by the sounds of an overflying jet.

Director Julian Hobba and producer Justin Watson will now have time to assess the success of their venture into creating a new public space in the “centre” of Canberra.

“CityNews” reviewers have been keeping an eye on events over the past week and a half, and have reviewed “Sappho in 9 fragments”, the cabaret “Bomb Collar” and “Hamlet [working title]”.

Because the auditorium created from scaffolding in industrial materials by Cox Architecture’s Ronan Moss, was swathed in transparent materials, making it difficult to get a paying public, we have also readily observed the program of performance, films and forums from outside while to-ing and fro-ing between the myriad of arts events taking place at the same time. Increasingly unpredictable weather makes outdoor theatre a chancy thing and, given the predilection of Canberrans for silly season events, another time of the year might have seen more people through the doors instead of the smattering that we sawfor most presentations.

The recreation of a classical theatre in the middle of Civic Square is an enticing idea, and more than once I found myself wishing Moss’s auditorium were set in stone so that we could enjoy the ambience of the setting all year round.

But, honourably excepting the Multicultural Festival that used to be held in the same location for many years, it is impossible to say that Civic Square actually IS the centre of Canberra – indeed planners have long been scratching the heads to determine where the epicentre might be.

We will be interested to see if The Public Theatre picks itself up and walks elsewhere in the future.




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