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BT (remix) Edinburgh, home in Oz & a new offer for 2016

Sat, 19/07/2014

 Its winter, in the midde of the calendar year in Sydney. The sun shines brightly while the cold bites quietly. It's not extreme as in England or Edinburgh, but there is still damp washing, low energy and wrapping up warm against colds and snuffles. Now its summer in Europe and the twitter feeds snippets of warm beer, long evenings and festivals. I have been living in Australia for almost 11 months. Time plays tricks - we know - its a recurrent theme in this project.

I arrived in Australia the day the current conservative government were voted into power. An announcement from the pilot as we flew into Sydney. A few booed, no-one cheered. I couldn't have predicted the lenghs the Abbott government would go to to undermine the status of women (our misogynist leader pronounced himself leader of the department for women), inhumanely persecute refugees and divide this proud myulticultural nation; or continue to deny the overwhelming evidence of Climate Change in order to promote the dirty business of coal and coalseam gas. There are many actions proposed in the past few months that will do further irrevocable damage to this country's unique natural environment and with an economy reliant on coal mining, stop Australia from joining the clean energy revolution sweeping the world. Regular demonstrations swarm through the streets of our cities and towns just as they are doing all over the world. Change is on the move.

Coming 'home' is so loaded with promise and peril. Life is imagined better. But things are not the same as they once were, not before I left, or in the place I have just left. It takes time to adjust and properly land.  Australia is an extraordinary place, the 'lucky country' in the minds of many. All the migrants who have ventured here over 200 years and made this vast southern continent their home have had a jumble of structures and systems borrowed and bestowed upon them; mulched together to make our precious brand of Aussie. The colonial ties seem so strong after living in Europe, painfully knotted into imperfect place here. Sydney, Australia a place of stark contradictions. After fifteen years away, many of these are in sharp relief under the brilliant sun. 

Leaving England last year I thought I was closing a chapter of my life that included the BiDING TiME project. But journeys change you, they offer surprising new perspctive and imagination. The project has a life beyond me, which was always part of the plan, though still surprising. Louise Quinn is about to present her Scottish version at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Political and social conditions in Australian are starting to echo those in Europe, this has spurred further thought and I found myself reinvigorated for this project, determined to strive for the vision I had - only partly achieved. I still believe there is a need for new processes, that the arts can dream and test them. I am hopeful that imaginative theatre events can rehearse new ideas that will inform our future. The path isn't quite clear yet and I am prepared for resistance, I understand how difficult new ideas and real change is, I am determined to ride the waves and keep journeying.

BiDiNG TiME started in Australia and after eight years of playing with it on the other side of the world, of trail and error, of huge successes and disappointing deviations, the project has come home too. 

Identity is complex. In returning to my home town, where I grew up but haven't lived for twenty five years, I find myself much older (no surpirse there) but its still a shock. I am flooded with memories of youth that perhaps only place can bring. The sound of cicadas, the smell of frangipani, the streets I wandered before I could drive, the school I went to where my kids now go - playing handball and elastics. My 20 year old self, who helped create BiDiNG TIME the year before I left Sydney for drama school, lingers in the shadows. She still yearns for better roles for women, still deeply troubled by global problems that seem too big to tackle. She is still determined that someone must, that she must, somehow, do something. Whether theatre is any kind of answer, I doubt more than I did then, but I want it to be more relevant and hope drives me on. As a middle aged woman, much more comfortable in my own skin than I was, I want to coach and catch the spirit of youth still at the heart of this piece. I would never have written BiDING TiME story now and I would never have imagined this complex provocation then. The fact that so many young women see themselves in the story of Thyme is the only thing that has kept me going in my darker moments.

One of the great pleasures of coming back has been reconnecting with old friends. Wednesday Kennedy, Sarah Butler and I all had dinner a few weeks ago, reconnecting our original collaboration and the years slid away. We are all such different personalities and finding a shared story is what made our young collaboration so rich. Opening and widening that collaboration now, with their blessing, celevrates that we still share values and ideas about what changes might make the theatre and the world a better place. Despite years and so many adventures, each of us are also changed and yet somehow still essentially the same.  

So I am resolved to keep going. In August Biding Time (remix), the fabulous Scottish version by Louise Quinn and Tromolo Productions, directed by Ben Harrison, will be presented at Summerhall during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, featured in the Made in Scotland program. This is a shining example of the project in action, cleverly adapted by Louise and intertwined with her own story. Yet the core story is the same. We met online. We've met a handful of times. Collaborations between strangers are possible. Its not been without its hiccups and misunderstandings but letting go and learning is the challenge I committed to when dreaming this up.  We can open the theatre process and share, celebrate diversity through collaboration and let more voices in. The Biding Time (remix) flavour is essentially Scottish and that is only possible because Louise is Scottish. I am full of respect for her integrity and spirit. I am looking forward to seeing versions from other places in the near future ....Fiji, Bathurst (NSW, Australia), Iran? 

Having always thought I'd have to choose between England and Australia, the two places I call home, I have reached a new level of understanding about what it means to have a dual identity, in this case representing both colonised and coloniser. And it is because of these two perspectives that BiDiNG TiME has been imagined to celebrate many identities, to enable voices we don't often hear. Moving home to confront the Aussie racism when there is such a rich blend of different people here has thrown me back and made me think - about prejudice, cultural heritage and how to be recognised for who we really are. I am inspired again.

The next plan is forming and my aim is true. 2016 is the target. Partners are already lining up to create their own versions of the story, in Australia and abroad, and share them with a Sydney hub in 2016 where I will make a new crowd sourced version of the show. BiDiNG TiME is empowering women, celebrating cultural difference and connecting with nature. BiDiNG TiME is taking time but she too is coming home. Watch this space...

AND FINALLY...If you happen to be in Edinburgh in August, please go and see Biding Time (remix) - its a great show. The link is here: