Meeting Place with… Rebus Theatre – an award-winning mixed ability Canberra company using theatre for social change

The annual Meeting Place forum takes place in Canberra for the first time in 2019. The engaging and thought-provoking three-day program will take place across leading arts and cultural venues in Canberra and will feature some of Australia’s most culturally ambitious artists with disability. And it wouldn’t be the same without Rebus Theatre, so we caught up with the good folk to see what they have in store. 

Describe your practice:

Rebus is an award-winning mixed ability company using theatre for social change. Rebus runs classes and workshops, delivers workplace training, and produces creative projects. 

The main form that we work in is Forum Theatre, where we present a short play that depicts a social problem, then invite members of the audience onto the stage to help solve the problem. We also draw on a range of other theatre forms and multi-disciplinary performance.

When, how, and why did you get into it?

Rebus began in 2013 as a community project led by Artistic Director, Robin Davidson, to promote disability awareness and provide performance opportunities for actors with disabilities. This program was led by NICAN, and funded by an ACT Government Innovations Grant. 

Forum Theatre had long been an interest of Rebus Artistic Director Robin Davidson, who came across it during his undergraduate studies in Theatre/Media at Charles Sturt University in Bathurst. As Rebus gained other opportunities, the company developed its own unique rituals and ways of working with communities and audiences. 

What ideas do you explore through your organisation?

Our projects look at issues surrounding the challenges faced by people with a disability, mental illness, or lived experience of any type of marginalisation, as well as issues that affect the community and world as a whole. 

Some specific themes have been climate change, young people’s experiences of conflict, disability and love, and living with the impact of trauma.

Who/what influences you?

All of Rebus’ staff and members bring their own influences and experiences to the organisation, both artistically and thematically, which inform the projects we do. Some of these influences are Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, various improvisation disciplines, Viewpoints, Giovanni Fusetti’s movement theatre, the lived experience mental health movement, the climate justice movement, and disability activism.

Of what are you proudest of so far?

Our work-in-progress performance Moving Climates based on interviews with climate scientists; our most recent Forum Theatre performance Access All Areas: Justice about people with disability and the justice system; and winning the ACT Chief Minister’s Inclusion Award in 2018.

What are Rebus’ plans for the future?

Our plans are all funding dependent, but include rolling out our Forum Theatre work nationally, training people in community theatre and cultural development, setting up an exchange with a university in Canada, and setting up an ongoing disability theatre ensemble.

What about the local scene would you change?

We would like to see better accessibility in venues, not just for audiences but for performers and presenters. We would like government, private, and community sectors to acknowledge the value of the social and healing power of the arts, and to see more employment of artists in hospitals, schools, consultations and other areas where our skills in empathy and creativity can be put to use.

What are your upcoming events?

We’re performing Open Doors Open Minds at Belconnen Arts Centre at 11.30am on Tuesday, December 3 as part of Meeting Place. 

This is a Forum theatre performance about the barriers people with disability experience in gaining meaningful participation in the community. 

A Tender Thing, a devised play about disability and love, opens at the Ralph Wilson Theatre at Gorman House on Friday, December 6.

Contact info:

www.rebustheatre.com

info@rebustheatre.com or 0403 815 784

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