Papers Presentations # 1 – Session 1E

NZ – 1.30pm | VIC/NSW/TAS – 11.30am | SA – 11am | QLD – 10.30am | NT – 10am
WA – 8.30am

Chaired by Peter Beaglehole

Links to join all conference sessions can be accessed via the program page of the ADSA conference website

Claire French – Disinhibiting the body to mobilise multilingualism

This paper presents observations of third-year actors in Micia de Wet’s devising and rehearsal process for Father, My Father (2017) at City Varsity, Johannesburg. It analyses moments when actors’ bodies become disinhibited from the spectatorial gaze to reveal embodied and linguistic resources otherwise unseen in the 13-week period. These include mixed varieties of Setswana, Sesotho and English. I suggest such moments as opportunities for multilingual performance practices which mobilise actors’ minority and low-status languages and language practices. In so doing, de Wet’s practice provides opportunities for decentring dominant languages and their symbolic value afforded through colonisation, apartheid and globalisation. I respond to the questions: What are the connections between actors’ bodies and their language/s? How is the body disinhibited in interaction with other bodies to draw more widely from linguistic resources? And, what is the facilitator’s role in this? The socio-cultural and linguistic implications of actors’ new approaches to their linguistic resources are interpreted in relation to their complex South African context. My sociolinguistics and performance studies methodological approach provides unique opportunities to visualise detailed interactions and systematically interrogate multiple meanings. I propose several starting points for facilitating multilingual devising processes that situate dominant languages and usher in languages previously omitted.

Claire French is an Arts Research Africa Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and Associate Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Warwick, Coventry. As a researcher, she investigates analytical and methodological approaches to making multilingual performance. Her research currently critiques the reproduction of linguistic hegemonies in South African autobiographical performance contexts. As a documentary theatre and performance-maker, Claire develops practices that privilege the storyteller in their unique social, epistemological and interactional context – to unearth new truths, new connections and new cultural literacies. Claire comes from a migrant Irish Australian heritage and has lived and made work in Germany, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Australia.

Deborah Leiser-Moore – unHOWsed: Hidden Voices of Older Homeless Women

This presentation draws on the visual performance work, unHOWsed – in which eight older ex-homeless women share their experiences of homelessness. In making the work, the aim was to collide the women’s stories with my practice/methodology, which relies less on spoken text – although it includes text – but predominantly on image, the language of the body, of soundscape, of film and of creating a physical environment. The work wasn’t about the women or was asking the women to ‘act’ their stories. Rather, it was them existing in the ‘performance’ space as themselves – women who had been homeless, who had couch surfed, lived in cars, lived on the streets. The work aimed to place audiences into an environment and give them a visceral experience of homelessness as experienced by these women.
For many of the women in the performance work, it was the first time they had spoken aloud about their experiences – and the first time performing. The resulting work was strong, dignified and inspiring and, as one review wrote: “it knocks down the invisible wall between its subjects and its audiences to see the humanity behind the ensemble’s struggle” (Diana Hodgetts – Pop Culture-Y)

In this presentation I interweave the performance work – including discussing the project’s process and methodology, with its focus on developing The Ensemble (the community) – with a virtual, recorded “tour” of the St. Kilda streets.

Deborah Leiser-Moore is an interdisciplinary performance maker/director who makes bold visceral works investigating, culture, identity and contemporary issues. She recently directed/co-created unHOWsed, in which eight older ex- homeless women share their experiences of homelessness, for Theatre Works St Kilda’s main season. In September 2020 the filmed version played in competition at the 2020 Cairo International Festival of Experiment Theatre, and it 2021 it will be presented at Drum Theatre, Dandenong. Deborah has toured extensively, notably to New York performing and collaborating in Richard Schechner’s Imagining O in the Peak Performance Festival.In 2017/2018 she workedwith Ranters Theatre in collaboration with Korean company, Creative VaQi, in Unknown Neighbors at Ansan Festival and as part of Festival of Live Arts at Theatre Works. She presented her solo duration live-artwork, My Body, My Country at the 2017 Queer Zagreb Festival, Croatia and toured the promenade production of Chi Vu’s The Dead Twin (originally presented at FCAC), which she directed and performs in, to George Town Festival in Penang, Malaysia. In 2018 she traveled back to George Town Festival with her performance/video-installation workKaBooM: Stories From Distant Frontlinesfor which she interviewed ex-soldiers from global conflicts (previously presented at fortyfivedownstairs and the Alice Desert Festival in Alice Springs). In 2019 Deborah’s work, Medea: Kaddish For The Children -based on the classic Euripides text, told from the woman’s perspective and intertwined with the Kaddish, the Jewish Mourners Prayer – was presented by FCAC as part of their 2019 Women, Arts and Politics program. Deborah completed her practice led PhD at La Trobe University and her MA (Performance) at Victoria University.

James Wenley – (De)constructing a performance of Pākehā identity: Dr Drama Makes A Show

Debuting in early 2020 at the Auckland Fringe and Wellington’s NZ Fringe, Dr Drama Makes A Show marked my first proper stage performance in over a decade. Described as a “postdramatic-metatheatrical-lecture-performance solo” and exploring themes of performance, masculinity and whiteness (Garner), the show includes a running commentary unpacking its dramaturgical construction. As writer and performer of the show, I had to confront the complex politics of placing my white, cis male body on stage and using autoethnography to explore the intersections of my identity and experience as the subject of critical analysis.

The central image of the show is a beautiful, wooden, antique desk. It is the desk that I wrote the script of the show on, and it is the desk that I am writing this abstract on. The desk belonged to my namesake, James Adams Wenley, treasurer of the Bank of Scotland (1879-1899). I thread the story of James and the desk through the show as a way to understand my Pākehā whakapapa, how the desk (and my ancestors) came to travel from Scotland to Aotearoa, and what it means for me personally to have inherited this desk and history.

In this performative presentation I will share extracts from Dr Drama Makes A Show and reflect on my process, practice and politics as a Pākehā pracademic. I will consider the responsibilities of Pākehā people as tangata tiriti (people of the treaty), and the motivation to engage Pākehā and tauiwi through the show in “the work of decolonisation” (Thomas, p107). This presentation extends my embrace of doubt as a key strategy in the construction of this work.

Garner, Steve, Whiteness: An Introduction (Routledge, 2007).
Thomas, Amanda, “Pākehā and Doing the Work of Decolonisation” in Imagining Decolonisation, Elkington, Bianca et al (BWB Texts, 2020): 107-132.

James Wenley is a Pākehā theatre academic, practitioner, and critic with a passion for promoting the theatre of Aotearoa New Zealand. He is a lecturer in the theatre programme of Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, where he teaches acting, dramaturgy, musical theatre and social practice theatre. James was awarded a PhD from the University of Auckland. James is a director, dramaturg and writer and makes theatre under his company Theatre of Love. He has recently written and performed two shows, Dr Drama Makes A Show (2020) and Dr Drama Makes A Show With You (2021) which have played at Auckland Fringe and Wellington’s NZ Fringe. James is also the editor and founder of, a platform for reviews and commentary on Aotearoa theatre. As a researcher, James has investigated the performance and reception of New Zealand theatre toured and produced internationally. His book, Aotearoa New Zealand in the Global Theatre Marketplace: Travelling Theatre, is published by Routledge.