Disobedience, theatre and the musical frame

Saturday 6 February 2016, 3pm Powerhouse Museum Book Tickets

Director Dr Nigel Kellaway will discuss theatre beyond narrative purpose, in particular the notion of performance and contemporary arts practice in relation to creating Glorias.

In an informal and un-didactic talk, Nigel will explore the deconstruction of a contemporary American naturalistic text, applying the protocols of German eighteenth century music and the nineteenth century recital – contemplating acknowledged masterpieces as disobedient objects.

For forty years Kellaway’s work has aimed to unsettle a range of historical presumptions concerning the art forms of music, theatre and dance. GLORIAS (to be premiered at the Powerhouse Museum) extends his preoccupation with the relationship between space and the corporeal presence of performer and spectator in the theatre medium. It sets out to disturb familiar responses to repertoire and rituals determining the role of musicians and actors in the context of a performance that incorporates the fundamental elements defining an established recital format, exploring how the abstract qualities more generally attributed to music (tempi, dynamics, durations) can provide the structural, dramaturgical and aesthetic building blocks for a new theatre work.

Such a work might be described as “operatic” if definitions of opera are broadened to encompass the practices intrinsic to a “composer’s theatre”, bringing compositional concerns and skills to assembling theatrical, choreographic and visual elements in the theatre medium. GLORIAS six collaborators have contributed their shared concerns and strategies to highlight performance as ephemeral object. In this talk, Kellaway will contemplate a theatre that embraces narrative constructs, but confounds that logic, touching on a history of “post-dramatic” theatre in a work that considers three vocal soloists in a Beckett-like scenario … waiting for their cues. These are provocations that challenge prescribed ways of listening to and watching the familiar.

Nigel Kellaway

In a career embracing his skills as an actor, director, dancer, musician and contemporary performance maker, Nigel Kellaway’s initial professional performance training was in music, majoring in piano and composition at the universities of Melbourne and Adelaide.

He was the first Australian actor to train with Tadashi Suzuki and his Suzuki Company Of Toga (1984-85) and also worked with butoh artists Min Tanaka and Kazuo Ohno in Tokyo. Over forty years, he has created more than seventy full length theatre, dance and music works with companies including The Sydney Front, The One Extra Company, Sydney Theatre Company, Entr’acte, Terrapin Puppet Theatre, Sidetrack Performance Group, Legs on the Wall, Ihos Contemporary Opera, the Australian Dance Theatre, Stalker, Calculated Risks Opera Productions, the Song Company, Splinters Theatre of Spectacle, Urban Theatre Projects and Stopera and for venues including Performance Space (NSW), the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (WA), The Royal Court Theatre (UK) and Centre Nationale de la Danse (France).

One focus of his work has been on contemporary music theatre. In 1997 he directed the Colin Bright/Amanda Stewart opera The Sinking of the Rainbow Warrior with the Song Company and Australysis for the Sydney Festival on Sydney Harbour, and in 2001 co-devised and directed Little George, again with the Song Company. In 1996 he co-founded with Annette Tesoriero The opera Project Inc., a loose ensemble of actors and musicians dedicated to a reassessing of “opera” (and its accoutrement) as a contemporary performance practice. He served on the dance board of the Australia Council from 1993-96 and in 1997 was awarded the Rex Cramphorn Theatre Scholarship by the NSW Ministry for the Arts, and in 2004, a senior artist’s Fellowship by the Theatre Board of the Australia Council. Kellaway, recently awarded a Doctorate in Creative Arts by the University of Wollongong, continues to work as a freelance director, performer and mentor.

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