Western Edge Youth Arts is a youth theatre organisation working with young people from culturally diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds to create rich and original theatre. Six Hours in Geelong is a show created and performed by the Geelong based emerging artist’s ensemble and is a fast and funny musical ride highlighting the cultural complexity of a changing city.
WEYA artistic director Dr Dave Kelman is the leader of the Six Hours In Geelong project, and has been working alongside the Geelong Edge Ensemble to create theatre that fearlessly examines the complex cultural landscapes they inhabit.
“The process of creating Six Hours in Geelong has been exceptional,” Dr Kelman says. “We started from the cast telling stories of actual incidents that they had witnessed or been part of that were about racism and Islamophobia. We then improvised scenes based on these incidents and then fictionalised them, creating characters. We transcribed from the improvisations and then crafted a script that incorporated everyone’s opinion as well as songs, jokes, films and told a complex story of ten young people who are on a crazy night out in Geelong.”
Working for the past thirty years as a director, writer, researcher and drama educator in Melbourne Australia and Leeds UK, Dr Kelman has a rich history in theatre and has brought his skills and insight to the company since co-creating it back in 2006.
“We established it [WEYA] as a company that brought theatre to disadvantaged communities and that made performances that were edgy,” he explains. “By that I mean we explored challenging content, the real issues that people faced in their lives. Always with humour, compassion and positivity but theatre that had a social purpose and that was also of a high artistic quality.
“Theatre has always been a very middle class, privileged thing. The young people I worked with were working class and culturally diverse and they had great stories to tell and real passion. I wanted to give them the opportunity to tell their stories and make theatre that was relevant to ordinary people. It’s been my life’s work.”
Since taking on the role at WEYA, Dr Kelman has directed widely acclaimed, community youth theatre work, as well as an innovative artists-in-schools program for the company. Stand out work for Western Edge includes Caliban (2016) and Iago (2015), which were both performed in a sell-out seasons at The Malthouse, receiving stellar reviews and attracting diverse audiences.
“The show last week [Macbeth] involved young people from Afghani, African and Karen refugee backgrounds performing Shakespeare. To see young people who have only been in Australia a few months engaging with the beauty and complexity of Shakespeare’s language and delivering it with passion and courage was moving and inspiring.
“It’s a funny thing but every show I do, I genuinely think, ‘this can be the best thing I’ve ever done,” Dr Kelman continues. “So my aim is for ‘Six Hours in Geelong’ to be my greatest achievement, although of course, like all our work it will be an ensemble achievement, not mine.”
A story of loss, loathing, love, and racism, Six Hours in Geelong is a fast and funny musical ride, through a cultural kaleidoscope into the soul of a changing city, and will be one worth checking out.
When & Where: Drama Theatre, GPAC – October 27, 1pm and 7pm
Tickets: $5.50 concession | $10 full
Bookings via www.gpac.org.au or call Box Office on 03 5225 1200