The images in this post are a couple of examples of the 22 collages I made as part of the research and writing process for Scratchland#.
Polyphonic environmental theatre, Scratchland# is an exploration of the wild frontiers of our urban centres. Scratchland# is the tag for places where some of the people, creatures, and things surplus to requirements in our celebrity and consumer-driven society wash up. A migrant from West Africa, a 50-something woman, a neglected child, a crow, a buddleia bush from a long-gone garden, a snow of Styrofoam crumbs, discarded toys, maybe a decomposing body. It’s about the overlooked and unmapped—be they places, people or wildlife.
On first impression, scratchlands are simply wildernesses of weeds and litter. Places where ambition has turned to rust and ruin. Where the tyre yard sits cheek-by-jowl with the crumbling nineteenth century factory and the man-made channel without a name. But they also contain the seeds of renewal and hope. Look a bit closer and you might see an improvised playground, a guerrilla garden, a dreaming space.
Scratchland# is a spatial story. Some influences? Everything from my favourite sociologist Zygmunt Bauman’s ‘liquid modernity’ to jazz to the ‘garbage aesthetic’ of 1960s Brazilian radical cinema. The plot, such as it is, devolves into a knot of multiple storylines written and rewritten by multiple voices—human and non human. It is a modular script, an orchestration of random, and perhaps not so random, encounters. Characters struggling to make their lives into stories and make those stories known to others. Some threads connect, others free-float.
I’ve just completed a draft of Scratchland# and this week I’ll have the opportunity to work with director/dramaturg Ian Lawson and some actors on the piece. There’s an in-progress presentation of Scratchland# this Friday 6 September at 7:00 pm at the Geoffrey Rush Studio, University of Queensland, St Lucia campus. I’m on the bill between readings of Optic Trilogy by Alfian bin Sa’at at 6:00 pm and Richard Jordan’s Machina at 8:00 pm. The event is curated and MC’d by fellow playwright and UQ Drama Convenor Stephen Carleton, and open to the public. If you’re in Brisbane, come along.