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Liminality redux

Photo: Dr Kara McKechnie

Part of the Invisible Diaries series:

Week 7 / Day 3


I was up at 5.00 am. It is now 11.00 pm. Today has been hard. Working with eight different groups of young people fashioning eight different performance projects (sometimes simultaneously) over nine hours on Zoom has been exhausting. I feel hollowed out with nothing left to say. I simply want to be.

The limens of today are again time and space, with these, in turn, complicated by competencies. As I interact with these young theatre-makers – observing, supporting, commenting when wanted – I am struck by their emerging dramaturgical practices. These creators, their deliberations, and their toggling between conception and creation, embody Blažević’s notions of the complexity of dramaturgy. Simultaneously, I am stimulated by their creativity but frustrated that my engagement with their projects is firmly rooted in the conceptual.

I find myself creating and trying to hold three-dimensional models and maps of their projects and their processes so that, when I enter their multiple spaces of collaboration, my contributions are on point, that they are not distractions. Even when being invited into the rehearsal room, the mere entering of the collaborative space, which in itself exists as a multiplicity, becomes a performative act to be managed. No longer am I able to slip into the rehearsal room and take a moment to reorientate myself to the project at hand. Supportive stealth is no longer an option. I am immediately present. Bells, beeps, and whistles signal my entrance. The trailer for the 2015 Sydney Theatre Company's production of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame is all too real: a clock ticks, a voiceover intoning “I hesitate, I hesitate to end”. I hesitate to enter. The act of entering will end that particular moment of the creators’ deliberations. Their time becomes subject to my timings. Discussions around disruptions and interruptions have been had; protocols have been determined. And, yet, in the very moment of entering the rehearsal room, “I hesitate, I hesitate to end”.

When I do listen to their deliberations, I become reminded, yet again, of the cognitive load these young creators are carrying. Geraldine Cousins talks of theatre being “ideally suited to the representation of precariousness because the theatrical present moment is itself unstable”. These emerging artists are managing instability on multiple axes. They live in precarious times. While the expected burdens and excitements of collaboration are present, the inherent uncertainties of live performance are exacerbated. Physical distancing creates an extra layer of mediatisation for process and product. Moreover, notions of the where of performance are tenuous at best. Time, paradoxically, has a sort-of stability that space, in the time of Covid, does not. I say sort-of stability because although the time of performance is fixed, this fixity is contingent on technology. Already grappling with remote collaboration, these theatre-makers need to create redundancies allowing for broadband failure, power cuts, electronic firewalls, and time-zones. Often, they need to grapple with unfamiliar technologies. They are being asked to respond to questions of time and place, process and product, in nuanced and sophisticated ways.

Virtual collaborations and performances are part of the theatrical lexicon. The theatrical quotidian encompasses experiments in time and space. Playing with audience-performer relationships could be considered passé. These performances may not be what was envisaged ten weeks ago, but, hesitantly, I would argue that for these performers, their conceptions of what constitutes performance has become richer. These are the future theatre-makers, programmers, and, indeed, audiences of the future. It is in good hands.

And, sometimes, email can wait until tomorrow.



Blažević, Marin. “Dramaturgy’s Complexity.” Dramaturgies: New Theatres for the 21st Century. Eds. Peter Eckersall, Melanie Beddie, and Paul Monaghan. Melbourne: Carl Nilsson-Polias on behalf of The Dramaturgies Project, 2011. 51-2.

Cousin, Geraldine. Playing for Time. Manchester University Press, 2007.

Endgame. By Samuel Beckett. Dir. Andrew Upton. Sydney Theatre Company. Roslyn Packer Theatre, Sydney, 31 March 2015. Performance.


Bernadette Cochrane is dramaturg and theatre academic at the University of Queensland. She focuses on institutional dramaturgies and cultural production. Bernadette writes extensively on the dramaturgies of the screening and streaming of live performances.

She is a board member of Migrant Dramaturgies Network, developed in partnership with New Tides Platform (UK) and the Centre for Theatre Research at the University of Lisbon, Portugal.


Headshot photograph by Chris Osbourne.


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