The singular attribute of Yellow Brick Roadshow is their tightness, their flash and flair efficiency. More than an attribute this speed is a lifestyle and pervades every aspect of their doings – from packing toiletries to group interaction.
They make touring an art form. Six people, their baggage, costumes, set and lighting pack into a Toyota Hi-Ace Van that can cruise. at 100 k.p.h. Inside the Van a lounge chair is fitted and, since there are only windows front and back, it’s like a womb. Safe, snug and secure – away from the fast, clanging scenery outside. Everything is ordered and familiar there – Nilsson crooning ‘You made me love you’ and other pleasantries, books in racks, carpet; 1imited indulgence. Hours of talk are spent on details of improving packing and gaining apace efficiency. And it pays off in things like allowing Nigel to sit in the main .street of Port Macquarie oblivious to the bustle, typing business thoughts, or to sit in at night, worrying, or dreaming of further flash and flair efficiencies.
Efficiency is a personal thing too with the company; they focus on keeping costumes repaired, clothing laundered and pressed, leather polished and so on. And it carries through in the acting too. There’s an enthusiasm to make the show as fast as possible, paring away any stage seconds not necessary to the optimum theatre of the moment. The audience is given very little time to react; plays are merged, spliced and/or run in parallel. The dialogue gets so speedy that the actors get the occasional run away moth, speaking faster than they can hear. It’s an adrenal rush pushing out the most with the least. And the audiences are zapped by it…
The remarkable point is that the political thrust of Yellow Brick was, compared to a street theatre group, negligible. Moral gestures at most. They do not present blacks or whites or parables – rather the medium, the exuberant flash and fun of it, was the message. So it does not draw ideological lines so much as make old lines fluid. And fluidity is the pre-requisite that makes social change peacefully possible.
Graeme Dunstan: Reality Construction Co. (N.S.W.)
Yellow Brick Roadshows has managed to get 350 performances of varying types of material to a wide variety of audience in 5 states without getting caught in what we consider to be an immensely damaging P.R. game. We do not believe that publicity should be anything more than an indication of time, place and the type of show to be presented. Personal publicity and attempted manipulation of the media are fraught with danger, primarily because of the ego involvement that usually follows, If an organisation booking us wants to run some kind of publicity campaign in order to get audiences we co-operate to the extent of provision of background material, posters and a limited interview time. It works better for us if the people that know about us are the people that have seen us…
Some Roadshow wanker who might have been me
Footscray shoppers are still recovering from two afternoon performances last week. Many are still wondering what it was all about. For the few street theatre buffs and ‘with it’ people in the Mall at the time, the group was a ‘gem’. But the material they used certainly wasn’t written for a western suburbs audience. But there were smiles on the faces of many people who saw one or both of the half—hour shows. A band of tattooed men heckled and interjected on the first day, replaced the next day by a somewhat inebriated man who possibly saw the actors as a threat to his own ‘cultural supremacy’ in the west.
Local Footscray paper (Vic.)
More theatre, more art, life art theatre love it.
Letter, Northern New South Wales
ROW OVER PLAY FOR SCHOOLS
Banner Headline — Northern Star (N.S.W.)
It is not the policy of this school to present to schoolchildren programs which are likely to be considered offensive by community standards, nor is the use of obscene language in school performances condoned.\
Principal — Coff’s Harbour High School
A Coff’s Harbour student has written to complain bitterly about the decision of the headmaster., to ban a performance at the last minute, apparently learning that it was possible that dirty words might he used. According to our correspondent, who, for obvious reasons, does not want to be named, ‘The production.. could only have offended the most ultra conservative drongo who doesn’t know what a swear word is. The reason the headmaster banned the performance was because he had seen the adult version of it which featured several swear words and other things offensive. In the Tuesday afternoon performance, the only swear words used were fart, shit, turd and tits and these were used as normal people would use them in everyday conversation.’ And used, no doubt, as you would hear them in the grounds of the Coff’s Harbour school everyday, but headmasters are difficult people to fathom. In this case the show was cancelled at the very last minute, with the audience in their seats and actors waiting in the wings.
A new dramatist of sparkling power and originality has suddenly appeared on the Australian scene. She is S.P Pearl, resident dramatist of a roving group, Yellow Brick Roadshows.
The Herald (Vic.)
The Yellow Brick Roadshow is a kind of wonderful wizard of Oz (Oz in the ocker sense) it’s a kaleidoscope of brilliant colors, movement and incisive comment. A privileged few saw the wonderful Wizard of Oz in action this week. Both shows were hilariously funny — or were they? The Yellow Brick Roadshow troupers sniped at marriage, sex, racism and most of the other Victorian attitudes which continue to smear Australian society… I kept thinking of the words from the Elton John song of the same name; ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.. where the dogs of society howl…’
Bendigo Advertiser (Vic)
With extraordinary talent and energy they demonstrate the tools of theatre, and open eyes to the different possibilities of theatrical illusion.
Reality Construction Co. (N.S.W.)
After twelve long months of wearing out company members private cars and coping with exorbitant hire costs, we have bought a Toyota Hi-Ace. The provision of a van which seats six comfortably, plus set, props, costumes and personal luggage has simplified our lives on the road immensely. Over the last ten weeks of touring we have clocked up 9,000 kilometers,. an average of 900 km. a week. Constant, daily touring, with one or two shows a day and overnight stops at motels is wearing, claustrophobic and deeply instructive. The ratio of time spent travelling, setting up and sleeping to a single hour of performance daily makes the end result of each performance of paramount importance. A bad. performance, for whatever reason, reflects immediately on our personal interaction. It must be remembered that when we are out on the road, which is most of the time, there is no home, no family, no personal security of any kind, We are living our work 24 hours a day. There is no opportunity of escape. This simple fact infects everything we do – each day we go out to perform we must restate, to ourselves, our reasons for being there. Each day there is an audience that, in effect, tells us whether we are right or wrong.
YBRS Report to someone
No one can, or will, deny the expertise of this company. They are as professional as they are slick. One must be astonished at the reaction they are receiving in the North Coast region. And one has got to ask why? After all, most people find the show amusing, a good belly laugh, some find it perplexing, and yet; others, albeit a few, make a ceremonial walkout, to be seen as publicly defending their own peculiar sense of propriety. All that variety of reaction coming from the same illusion.
The point is that in the performance people see themselves reflected – and respond accordingly. Yellow Brick Roadshows shook the lethargy of established elites everywhere and revealed their mediocrity. And in so doing so others were confirmed in their sense of oppression and domination by the values and mores of this geriatric elite…
But change will come. To resist the inevitable is to invite pain. To be open to it, is to be flexible about the choices of possible futures. Yellow Brick Roadshow is making all this prevailing inflexibility of mind apparent. Painfully so for some. Certainly the experience of the tour has changed us (Reality Construction Co.). And it has changed the N. Coast community in ways so subtle and obvious, significant and trivial that it becomes a statement of faith to claim it and to say – we know it’s all for the better. We got faith.
Graeme Dunstan: Reality Construction Co. (N.S.W.)
The show was tremendous. If you only knew how many good things happen Will get the $$ to you early next week if I have to rob the school banks there is any way we can help you, please let me know. We have facilities (rather humble) that if you deem desirable, you’re more than welcome. Rehearsals, workshops, anything. There’s no—one out here to tell us what can or can’t do. The germ for creative work such as the Roadshows can have a holiday out here.
Footsoray Institute of Technology (Vic)
They’re Melbourne too, but they looked more Sydney because they’re magically clever and fey. They started their show with a bit of Futurist nonsense, but then progressed into some really fascinating territory. The pity is that no local thespians seemed interested enough to turn up and be influenced. I still carry a haunting image of a pair who could either have been third rate nightclub dancer and her accompanist or a coy mystic courting couple. What they were doing is playing at theatre, then playing at life then letting that become theatre again. It’s the sort of thing that can – genuinely and. disturbingly affect one’s view of the so—called objective w The stand—up comic who fluffs his lines about his old woman, and who then finds himself at home with her — sad, sad., sad, and yet delightfully bizarre too. They are pass-the-hat-around, let’s-get-out-on-the-road genuine amateurs who make a quid at what they do, but who seem more concerned with what they do than with the quid they make from it.
We are ALIVE and well and building at MANDALA in the magic mountains at the end of the yellow brick road (see map). We are exploring alternatives. CARE TO SHARE’’???? Congratulations !! If you set out to make a lot of us re-examine our lives and. Thoughts, YOU’VE DONE IT i
Letter, Northern New South Wales
We have received complaints that in the itinerant performances which take around various halls and other institutions you are making references which are offensive both to Aboriginals and to migrants. The allegations may, of course, be incorrect but you will readily appreciate that we have to invite your opinion on this matter. Are you able to assure us that there a no racially discriminatory jokes or allusions in your performances? Particular reference is made to a performance conducted recently at Prahran College of Advanced Education.
Good Neighbor Council of Victoria
We were so impressed with them and their performance that we decided to write and thank the Arts Council for sponsoring them. We talked with the people after the show and I’m sure they know bow much we liked them, but perhaps you could pass on to Nigel and the rest of the group our ‘thanks for a very refreshing and stimulating performance and our best wishes for the future.
School Without Walls (A.C.T.)
The performance had been grossly misrepresented to the Arts Council. We believed it was experimental theatre with audience participation and we told. it would be of enormous advantage for drama students to see. It would not be the policy of our branch to sponsor such a performance. I consider I pornographic in the last degree.
Coffs Harbour branch — Arts Council (N.S.W.)