Innovative theatre strikes artistic gold

By Ashleigh Fielding | posted on March 14, 2020


AS A history major at university, I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but historical movies and documentaries tend to bore me.

They certainly don’t make my ‘must watch’ list on Netflix, let alone interest me enough to go all the way to the cinema to watch them.

I’m pleased to report that THEATRE 180 has officially changed my mind.

A Fortunate Life told the story of Australian man Albert Facey, who lived from 1894 to 1982 and experienced two wars, the Great Depression, the aftermath of the WA gold rush, poverty and family hardship across Victoria, Kalgoorlie, Perth, Narrogin, Bruce Rock, Merredin, Wickepin, Pingelly, Cave Rock, Victoria Park, Tuart Hill, Wanneroo, Gosnells and Mount Helena.

Normally, a story like this would lose me after the traditional opening panning shot of the Australian outback, but THEATRE 180 presented the story in a way I’d never experienced before.

It took place on a stage inside the movie theatre, with the big screen as a moving back drop.

For non-arts people, this might not mean that much, but for those who know the usual constraints of theatre versus cinema, it made for an entirely different experience.

Live theatre is, in essence, a movie occurring in real life in front of your eyes, but the changing static backdrops, lighting and intervals set it apart from the more realistic world viewers can lose themselves in watching a movie.

But this experience was, put simply, beautifully different.

There were only three actors portraying myriad characters, with simple costuming to differentiate between scenes, eras and characters.

The seemingly effortless way each actor transformed into a different character, and the way each scene rolled into the next, enabled the audience to really be lost in the mesmerising tale of hardship and sheer determination that was the life of AB Facey.

With my Nonna sitting beside me, I worried a bit about whether either of us would even like the show.

But the occasional giggle, gasp, ooh and ahh and tear that escaped from each of us throughout the performance – and from many other audience members, I am sure – proved that this piece of innovative theatre is a true piece of artistic gold for anyone of any age.

As an Italian-born Australian, Nonna loved learning about the Australian outback and history that remains quite foreign to her.

And I, someone Australian born and bred, learned more about Australian history and the firsthand impact events had on real people than any lecture I’ve sat through.

History is always more interesting when told from the perspective from an individual.

THEATRE 180 has done an absolutely spectacular job recreating AB Facey’s tale for theatre and they should be applauded for their efforts, including the wonderful audiovisual work of Albany company Green Man Media.