The Chat

Winner: Green Room Awards 2016 – Best Male Performer (David Woods), Contemporary and Experimental Performance

Nominated: Green Room Awards 2016 – Best Production, Contemporary and Experimental Performance

Behind the scene documentary: 21min

The Chat is a unique collaboration between director J R Brennan and renowned writer-performer David Woods of award winning cult comic duo Ridiculusmus (UK). Ignited by Brennan’s experience working as a parole officer in Sydney’s Long Bay Gaol, the work emerged from a series of performance workshops that Brennan ran with performance maker and choreographer Ashley Dyer for ex-offenders in the Melbourne area. Created in collaboration with participants from these workshops and leading criminologists, it is a work that fundamentally challenges our notions of criminal identity, and asks the audience to play judge.

The theatre becomes the tense, liminal space where an offender stands on the brink of freedom. In the tough, frightening beauty of the heavily surveilled interview room, ex-offenders co-create a live performance score that is littered with improvisatory mind bombs and reels kaleidoscopically around the threshold of entrapment and freedom.

Unravelling our fantasies about crime and redemption in a radical utopian vision of a possible future justice system, performers David Woods, JR Brennan and Ashley Dyer lead ex-offenders through the performance score and are at times led by them. Factual-fictional roles are switched, the offender becomes parole officer and interviews a mirror of themselves, testing and digging into the past. Shifts in power come thick and fast as the inherent authority dynamics of the parole interview format become clear. In the final moments of the performance audience join ex-offenders in a sequence of framed power plays that conjure and interrogate the spectre of imprisonment that continues to haunt the Australian psyche. Their task it to decide: Should this offender be released into the community? And under what conditions?

In August 2016 The Chat was presented at Arts House, Melbourne. The entire season sold out prior to opening night and achieved national media coverage, reflecting a strong public interest in the topic of criminal justice in Australia, at a time of shifting sands in legislation and public attitude.

Second Development Workshop

First Development Workshop

Date: 2017 Client: James Brennan Skills: Short Documentary Website: jrbrennan.com/the-chat/