This is a page of support material for the Canberra Theatre Centre New Works application for I Have No Enemies.
It has a number of things below:
- A summary of the style, story and evolution of the work.
- Video footage of the work-in-progress showing at Belco Arts in March 2021.
- Ideas for promoting for the production.
This page is only available to those with access to the direct web-link. Please do not distribute any of the content.
Please feel free to explore the rest of the Bare Witness website if you'd like further examples of previous work.
Chris, Brendan, Rachel and Ash.
I HAVE NO ENEMIES
"As one of the many, random side jobs that you end up doing in order to make a little extra money - or, “rent”, as I call it - I worked for a brief spell as a contractor for a transcription service..."
I Have No Enemies is an original post-dramatic play that turns an unblinking web-cam upon the science-fiction of our everyday lives. As a society, we've already signed up to a system where every measurable aspect of our behaviour is constantly monitored and recorded; and we’re still catching up to the consequences - I mean, who actually READS the terms & conditions...? For most of us, the only defence we have against tumbling down the rabbit-hole of paranoia is the idea that we’re not important enough to merit closer scrutiny; that we haven’t done anything wrong, so we’ve nothing to hide; that we have no enemies. But who are you trusting with your data? Who's behind the screens? What if it's a group of unhinged sociopaths like US? Confronting, enlightening and absurdly entertaining, I Have No Enemies is radical contemporary theatre that decodes the uncomfortable truth of life through a lens.
Stylistically, we owe a debt of influence to the likes of The Encounter by Theatre de Complicité, Oh! What a Lovely War! by the Theatre Workshop, and Kill Climate Deniers by David Finnigan. The performers play versions of themselves, addressing the audience directly in a naturalistic, presentational style. All the information in the early part of the show is factual, drawing from personal experience and establishing a sense of trust and common ground with the audience. They are 'invited in' to the world of the show, the key questions are introduced and the theatrical language of the piece laid out before them: we are four actors, grappling with these issues around surveillance, data collection and digital identity, and are attempting to explore them, in a way that sits somewhere between a detective story and a social-science experiment. The conceit is in effect, a transparent re-enactment of a devising process, retaining the feel of chaos, frustration, in-fighting, and eureka moments that erupt from the rehearsal room.
As the show evolves, we move ever more fluidly between disparate narrative threads around the core themes - the attempt to track down, stalk, troll and ultimately kidnap an innocent man whose personal information has inadvertently landed in our hands; the ineffectiveness of 90s Hollywood movies to explain the internet; the all-encompassing obsession of a fictional video game, Tortoise Run, that plays on the popularity of games like Pokémon Go; and the meta-narrative of the contrasting emotional journeys of the four actor-characters as paranoia, conspiracy, and anarchy take hold. As the momentum increases, we hurtle into increasingly theatrical and fantastical territory, only for the apparent chaos to coalesce into an absurd, but unexpectedly coherent resolution: fleeing a siege of digital tortoises, the team break into a Data Centre in Fyshwick in order to free the Giant Tortoise, hack into the mainframe of the internet, and release everyone's data back into the world. Well, that's the plan, anyway...
The artists involved bring a wide range of skills that go beyond their capabilities as accomplished actors, as well as a resourcefulness as creators in their own right: Rachel as a writer, director & designer through her company, Ribix Productions; Brendan as an award-winning producer & director of short films; and Ash as a comedian and singer-songwriter. As the lead artist, I bring my experience as an independent theatre-maker through my company, Bare Witness, and as a member of Paris-based international ensemble Breadknives. My training as an actor at The Samuel Beckett Centre, and particularly as a theatre-maker at Ecole Jacques Lecoq, has forged an ethos in my work of the actor-as-creator, which is at the heart of this project.
The different voices and perspectives of the four artists have created an exhileratingly original piece of theatre, born of a process of genuine collaboration. The method of working and the resulting style of performance calls for actors with versatility, curiosity, a social conscience, and the skill to translate dense research and personal experience into the language of theatre. It also personalises the otherwise intangible ideas at play, as we, the actors, attempt to confront them, and thereby act as a relatable proxy for the audience. As such, we hope the show can be a public forum, not for the presentation of answers, but a genuine attempt to understand the questions.
I Have No Enemies began as a presentation as part of the Pitch In event for Autumn Revel at Ainslie and Gorman Arts Centres in May 2018. The initial draft of the play was workshopped in a 2-week development at Belco Arts in March 2021, culminating in an 80-minute work-in-progress showing for invited guests (see video below). As part of our research, we have consulted with Jenna Imad Harb, a PhD scholar at the School of Regulation and Global Governance, ANU, whose areas of research include surveillance, science and technology studies and social justice. Jenna has connected us with several other experts in the field whose input has informed the further development of the work, which continues as part of our weekly ensemble training/devising at Belco Arts. Dramaturgy for the project is supported by ensemble-member and experienced Canberra-based director, Rochelle Whyte.
For the full production, we hope to partner with a digital media artist who can help enhance the technological aspects of the show. This collaboration could also open up possibilities for imaginative videography and substantial online components, as the subject matter lends itself to adaptation for digital streaming, potentially building on the CTC@Home program from last year.
Through our connection with the School of Regulation and Global Governance at ANU, the faculty are eager to help promote the work via their Justice and Technoscience Lab (JusTech), and other platforms connected with the themes of the show.
The work could be an excellent candidate for the Surveillance Studies Network Art Prize, when a full production is confirmed.
As a theatre show that is preoccupied with the experience of the digital world, it would be an excellent opportunity to create an expansive, innovative and thematically integrated social media campaign to promote the production. A useful reference is the ABC series Content, which the viewer experiences entirely through the lens of the character's phone. The writer of the series, Anna Barnes, is a close collaborator with a another long-time collaborator of mine, and could be consulted on developing this material.
The image of Canberra in popular culture as a 'Secret City' of international spies and ASIO agents, as well as the seat of a Federal Government with a terrifying attitude to data privacy and personal liberties, makes it a perfect setting for the work. The Data Availability and Transparency Bill introduced in December is just another example of Australia's complete disregard for its citizen's rights - promotion of I Have No Enemies could (and should) aim not only for the Culture section, but for the News sections too, drawing attention to these urgently relevant issues.
The show treads a thin line between fact and fiction, encouraging the idea that ethical lines are being crossed and the audience is not only complicit in, but susceptible to an invasion of personal privacy. We mean to incorporate personal information about audience members into the show (much in the way a Mind Reader or Medium would), and could apply this 'surveillance' to interviewers or reviewers as part of our publicity; or as a theme in the marketing material, with an implicit threat (and thrill) that coming to the show carries its own risks: "What do you have to hide?"
We would love to extend the notion of the theatre as a forum to dissect these issues, and incorporate a round-table discussion with some of the academic experts whose research has informed the project. This could either follow one of the performances as part of a post-show discussion, or be an event in its own right, on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, offered free to anyone who has bought a ticket for the show over the course of the run.