Free Theatre is to be in the spotlight with a new documentary by award-winning filmmaker Shirley Horrocks to première at the New Zealand International Film Festival in August and two new books penned by company members.
Horrocks, one of New Zealand's leading social and arts documentary filmmakers, is well known for producing documentaries that shed light on influential artists, her award-winning work focusing on the likes of Marti Friedlander, Len Lye, Albert Wendt and Allen Curnow. Horrocks’ production company, Point of View Productions, says the film will provide insight into “a hidden treasure, which has been presenting one extraordinary production after another for 37 years”.
Horrocks began researching Free Theatre in 2010, after travelling to Wellington to see the company present Distraction Camp at the old BATS theatre (Wellington). She then travelled south from her Auckland base to film a series of productions over six years. Her documentary provides extraordinary, previously unseen footage from a number of the company's highly acclaimed productions in post-quake Christchurch, including The Earthquake in Chile and Canterbury Tales. Horrocks also presents footage from Free Theatre's extensive archives, which have been developed through an archiving project that began in 2008.
The film comes at the same time as the release of a new book by Free Theatre member Marian McCurdy. Published by Intellect and titled Acting and its Refusal in Theatre and Film: The Devil Makes Believe, the book is based on McCurdy’s PhD thesis and offers insight into the company’s work through a series of recent high profile productions. She also discusses films such as Lust, Caution directed by Ang Lee and Lars von Trier’s The Idiots to consider the ethical desire of refusing to act—which results from blurred boundaries of acting and living—and examines how real life and performance are intertwined.
McCurdy’s book precedes another that she is currently working on with Free Theatre members about the company’s work. Research for the book will be presented as part of a special panel at the Australasian Theatre, Drama and Performance Studies Conference (ADSA) in late June.
Hosted by the Auckland University of Technology, this year’s conference theme is ‘Performing Belonging in the 21st Century’ and includes a keynote address from activist and artist Tame Iti. Free Theatre Artistic Director Peter Falkenberg delivered the keynote address at the organisation’s conference last year in Toowoomba on ‘theatre and resilience’. Elements of this paper will also feature in the book which is planned for publishing in 2018.