Kinetic Energy Press: Passing a cultural and political legacy on to new generations

Jepke Goudsmit as Ruby, Graham Jones as Frankie, in "Eccentrics" (2000). Photo: Jos Schrijer-Zouff

For the past couple of years, we have been working on a project dear to our heart: the readying of our plays for publication.

Since our active years as live theatre-makers have come to an end, we feel the need to shape our body of work into some documented form.

It enables us to reflect and let go, as well as preserve and pass on. Not because we dread the thought of sinking into oblivion (nothing is permanent), but because we believe it is important as elders to share our experience and hand over our legacy to the next generations.

The plays we created for Kinetic Energy are of historical and cultural importance, spanning the period 1985–2016. We tackled many pressing issues that were bubbling, brooding and spilling over at that time.

Some subjects were still taboo until the end of the last millennium, such as mental health disorders, or ageing and dying. Others were topical, such as power struggles and the gender divide. All our plays, however fantastical they might appear on stage, were always steeped in real life situations and informed by the real life stories of people of flesh and blood. Our fieldwork and outreach were right in the community.

A work of art is like a window, providing vistas to inward and outward worlds. It is created in response to the observations and experiences of the maker, and it interacts with and comments on the psychological, social, political and aesthetic landscapes of the time.

Small and independent companies like ours are at the forefront of experimentation, breaking all kinds of boundaries and spearheading change. Just like progressives in the social and political field clear the way for system change from the ground up.

We have always been drawn to approach the arts and the function of the arts in society in a holistic way, seeing how it all hangs and works together, and exploring, as it were, our cultural ecosocialism. One could say that art is not so much about the maker, but deeply about the collective human journey.

After attending our plays and seeing the work we were doing in the community, Brian Hoad, a theatre critic for The Bulletin, once called us “true national treasures of the performing arts”.

Well, our work isn’t finished until we pass on the treasure trove. So it is with great happiness that we announce our commitment to this publication through Kinetic Energy Press.

With the help of our daughters (Jola-Inanna Jones at the editorial helm and Saha Jones in the organisational wings), we are aiming to have the launch of the first five books this spring, namely the major plays from our legendary Edge Theatre era (1985–2000).

The second batch will follow in autumn, next year, and will be a collection of social justice/human rights plays from a later period (2006–2016), covering refugee rights, indigenous rights, homelessness and more.

The five books in the first batch are:

Eccentrics — inspired by the surreal life of the marginalised in multicultural Sydney of the 1980’s and the music of jazz great Thelonious Monk;

Who Dies? — an adaptation of Plato’s Myth of the Cave, exploring the process of dying as a path towards liberation;

Who Lives?! — a contemporisation of the ancient Egyptian papyrus script Dialogue between a world-weary Man and his Soul, delving deep into mental health issues;

Undiscovered Land: Voyage1 & Voyage2 — a man’s journey (Voyage1) and a woman’s journey (Voyage2) through time, using regression techniques. Caught in the power web of religion, race and gender, they search for keys to their healing; and

Go! Walk! — a dance poem inspired by Tao, the process of creating and birthing, and Chinese calligraphy. An homage to the feminine.

Each book starts with an extensive introduction, looking at the subject, themes, research, artistic treatment and raison d’être behind the play.

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Graham Jones as Man, Jepke Goudsmit as Soul, in "Who Lives?!" (1992). Photo: Corrie Ancone

Our work from that era was not text-based per se, but rather a synthesis of dance, drama, song/sound and visuals.

Transposing the time-space experience of the performance to a word-page immersion on paper has been an interesting challenge. We have come up with poetic and imaginative ways to describe the various non-verbal performative streams and their dynamics.

Many splendid pictures by photographer Corrie Ancone, and associated artists Anthea Boesenberg, Denise Davis and Jos Zouff will enrich the publication.

We are also including images of original posters (notably by graphic designers Josef Stejskal and John Windus), as well as reviews and press articles.

You can watch excerpts from the plays on YouTube here:

THE JITTERBUG from ‘ECCENTRICS’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axDNbxYbt9g

THE WALTZ from 'WHO DIES?’

https://youtu.be/cNXbL3vgnzo

THE TROLLEY FIGHT from 'WHO LIVES ?!'

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuMeJKaUiyE

Two collages from UNDISCOVERED LAND:

VOYAGE 1https://youtu.be/ZYExdqIuKRg

VOYAGE 2https://youtu.be/NzFwZM01C4E

[To pre-order the collection email kineticenergy@iprimus.com.au]

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