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An Ode to the Commuter: Stories from the 428

To be honest, it's the marketing of new theatre/writing production Stories from the 428 that has me hooked. Fliers in the shape of oversized Travel Tens, posters channelling the Blue Concession Weekly in my pocket; they promise that if we look a little closer at the average tedious bus trip, there are surprises to be found.


Now, every time I see the packed, sweaty and uninviting 428 bus zoom past, I get a thrill of anticipation. This Sydney transport fixture is the inspiration for Stories from the 428, a dynamic new production opening this month at Marrickville's Sidetrack Theatre. This particular bus route was chosen because it stops right outside the theatre itself – appropriate AND convenient!

The production has essentially put sixteen writers on the long winding bus trip from Circular Quay to Canterbury over two weeks, and after it’s all over they were asked to write a short script in response to it. Breathy conversations whispered over the No Standing Zone, heartfelt graffiti scrawled on the plastic seats and scenes outside the bus window were all potential fodder for Stories from the 428.
Commuter, prepare to recognise thyself.

“I liked the idea of a project having to respond to a stimulus that's changing and dependent on different times - even the bus timetable can have an impact,” says Sime Knezevic, one of the writers for the project. Although drawn from a single bus route, Knezevic says the resulting plays have little in common with each other, promising to be as varied and surprising as their inspiration.

The short theatre pieces vary from 30 seconds to ten minutes and the writers – who include names such as Donna Abela, Vannessa Bates, Kit Brookman and others who are behind some of theatre, television and radio's most well-versed scripts – have been free to create microdramas, monologues or “perhaps a piece with no words at all.” A team of eight directors have staged the works, with the help of as many actors as required.

Knezevic has a background in live art and experimental theatre, and was attracted to the collaborative nature of the project. “I would be contributing a text that would then be part of a series of texts that would be pieced together by someone, which would then be directed by a series of directors, performed by a series of actors... there are so many voices that are intersecting and coming together to create what will in the end try to be a cohesive piece.”

Stories from the 428 is a way for playwrights to engage with the local community and create works with and for a specific community. The production aims to celebrate Marrickville, a suburb that poses some unique challenges, such as what to do when your theatre is directly under the flight path. “I can just imagine, there'll be some intense dramatic moment, interrupted by SHHHNNNRRRRRRRRR,” laughs Knezevic.

Stories from the 428 is on at the Sidetrack Theatre from Wednesday to Saturday between March 24 April 4. Tickets are $20-25 and can be purchased here.



words: Lucy Rose Fokkema

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