Full Houses: mobility and complicity in the dramas of real buildings.

Paul Davies


One popular form of site-specific theatre as it developed through the 1980s involved the production of plays in ‘real’ houses. John Krizanc’s Tamara (1981) premiered in Toronto and subsequently ran for nine years in a Hollywood mansion. Later, the Welsh group Brith Gof, applying a different formula, staged Tri Bywyd (Three Lives, 1995) in a purpose-built, scaffolding structure inspired by the designs of Bernard Tschumi – essentially a ‘house’ where the walls and furniture were transparent. This article examines a Melbourne play, Living Rooms, first produced in 1986 by TheatreWorks – one of a number of alternative companies grouped as Australia’s Next Wave movement. Living Rooms deployed similar staging strategies to Tamara, effectively dividing its audiences into separate groups and rotating them through several rooms in a former family mansion where discrete scenes, each depicting an episode in the building’s history, were enacted simultaneously. Like Tamara, Living Rooms proved immediately popular with its suburban audiences and this success derives, I would argue, from the interplay of diegetic and real spaces inherent in the design of both plays. 

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