Winner of the 2010 Sydney Theatre Awards for Best Independent Theatre Production
This is a show – the best I’ve seen from UTP – that creeps up slowly and then stays with you for a long time afterwards.
The Fence is a tale of love, belonging and healing. It is an emotional and tender work that looks at the adult lives of five family and friends who spent their childhoods in orphanages, institutions and foster homes. The Fence focuses on the present and how a small group of friends and family members have searched to make sense of their need for home and belonging.
The house belongs to Mel and Joy, who have been married for 20 or more years. They have a fiery partnership, and it is watching their relationship in action that carries the audience throughout the piece. Their home is a haven for long-time friends and the night starts out like any other – TV, dinner on the couch and a couple of drinks. The unexpected return of Mel’s sister after a 10-year absence unearths the past and an ordinary night turns upside down.
The Fence chronicles a night, and through it a lifetime, of loss, survival and reconciliation.
Caroline Wake, RealTime
Set in a purpose-built suburban-Sydney home, on the grounds of a former institution, with the audience seated in the ‘backyard’, the protagonists engage the audience in an honest, poetic and poignant portrait of contemporary life.
Over the 90 minutes the characters who are gathered at this place reveal, as much in their silences as in their speech, a deep past of neglect and loss. The effect is very powerful.
Director Alicia Talbot’s signature style has a filmic quality enhanced by the evocative setting and rich soundscape. Described as ‘fictionalised reality’, action and images unfold gradually and simultaneously with raw impact.
The Fence is powerful and sad, elusive and funny, tender and joyous
In light of recent political apologies to Indigenous and non Indigenous Australians suffering the “care” of the State in past decades, The Fence offers a fierce political commentary, with sensitivity and beauty.
In developing The Fence, the creative team spent 12 weeks working with Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians who had grown up in orphanages, foster homes and other forms of State care. These individuals are part of the Stolen Generations and Forgotten Australians. Industry professionals also took part including health professionals, peak organisations, advocates, activists, cultural thinkers and academics. Urban Theatre Projects describes the process as public dialogue and positions the collaborators as experts within the process. Lead by Alicia, the artistic team engage in regular open dialogue to develop the script and images throughout the piece
The Theatre Experience
It’s a moving piece that packs a subtle punch
The Fence offers audiences an unusual theatre experience. The site of the performance, a former Institution, was not revealed to audiences. Instead a meeting point at a well known venue was established. Audiences were met by company members, then directed on a 10 minute walk to the performance site. Audiences were given a walking map, with an essay, specially commissioned by Urban Theatre Projects, detailing the multiple layers of history of the site, Indigenous, post colonial and contemporary. Perusing the maps, audiences walked between buildings boarded up for decades, past sandstone walls made by convicts, and onto a disused tennis court surrounded by cyclone wire fencing, before taking their seats.
this is an astoundingly important show- a show which lingers and leaves an impression- a sticky residue – like that of our history.
Australia Council for the Arts, Arts NSW, Thyne Reid Foundation, Bankstown City Council, Sydney Water, Parramatta City Council, Sydney Festival 2010.