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More Art than Theatre: Cageling


Going to the theatre in Sydney can often be described as a middle-class rehash of the same old thing. The larger companies tend to go for the more commercial pieces written by well-known authors. Experimental? Visually exciting? Not usually. But Cageling, starting at the beautiful Carriageworks building this week, is a work that defies the expected theatre choices. It’s more art than theatre.

Cageling is a surreal world painted almost entirely in black and white. It examines the relationship between mother and daughter, power, repression, sexuality and monsters; of the “lock-someone-in-your-cellar-for-18-years kind”. As the audience enters the room the actors are already on stage, locked inside a clear box. The audience must walk around the box to take their seats. Director Kate Davis, explains, “I’m a bit obsessed with the power of objects… I’m very conscious of each object in the room...”

Cageling is loosely based on a classic play by Federico Garcia Lorca (a contemporary of Salvador Dali) called The House of Bernarda Alba. This is the nightmare version that takes the soul of Lorca’s play and strips it bare; it’s more inspiration than reinvention. Kate’s intent, she says is to “make it less about the need for text and more about image and the visual sense”.

Presented by adventurous and exciting company, The Rabble, Cageling is directed and designed by Kate and co-director, Emma Valente. They started The Rabble four years ago (with Syd Brisbane) because they wanted to “work in a community of artists... and make the work that we want to make which as a freelance director you just can’t do that easily.”

A day in the life of the theatre director isn’t easy. Even while deep in rehearsals, Kate is still on the phone doing interviews and publicity. While one piece is in production, another is in incubation. After her long day of rehearsals she goes home to do some “dreaming on moving the play forward because it’s evolving all the time”. Somehow Kate also has to fit in a few practical things like running a theatre company, paying some bills, eating dinner and, sometimes, sleeping. Exhausting and financially challenging it may be but Kate insists, “I never think of it as a job, I just love it. I can’t not do this.”

Cageling opens today and runs for one week to July 3. You’d best get in quick because the Melbourne season sold out and Sydney looks set to follow suit.

For bookings, contact Carriageworks on 1300 723 038 or book online through Ticketmaster. Tickets are $30.


words: Kristen Hodges

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