Since 1991, Melbourne’s much lauded Women’s Circus has created over 30 original works combining contemporary circus, theatre and music, every three years staging a highly anticipated large scale production.
In 2016, during their 25th Anniversary, they received rave reviews and sold out houses for their season of The Penelopiad, and 2019 sees them create and present another exciting and ambitious work for Melbourne audiences, The Drill.
Home to the Women’s Circus, The Footscray Drill Hall was built in 1914 to facilitate compulsory military training for men and boys aged 12 to 26 years old. Dozens of Footscray locals volunteered at the Drill Hall and these men became one of the first companies sent into battle in World War One – E Company. Soon they would find themselves in one of Australia’s bloodiest battles; Gallipoli. Most of the company of 250 did not return… Footscray became a city in mourning.
A century later, the Women’s Circus now invites audiences to a new, site-specific, feminist circus work, sharing untold stories of war through the lens of those left behind. Disappear into the world of 1914 for a surreal journey that blurs the lines between contemporary circus, immersive theatre, historical re-imagining, and art installation.
“For our 2019 production we decided to look at the history of our home,” explains Women’s Circus Creative Director Penelope Bartlau. “The Drill Hall has a very interesting past, having been built specifically for soldiers heading off to WW1.”
“There have been periods of time across the Hall’s 105 years where it was a space exclusively for cis men. Somewhat ironic given that this is our home of 12 years. But this fact, this exclusion, coupled with the history of war itself being exclusionary, piqued our interest.”
“What happened to those who were left behind? To those who did not or could not conform? To those who were not recognised or who were invisible? To those who didn’t believe in the war at all?” This line of thought and investigation has been the catalyst for creating The Drill.”
Created and performed by over sixty Women’s Circus members and artists, The Drill uncovers buried stories of the site’s history to explore the far reaching effects of war on communities. Playing as a part of the 2019 Due West Festival, this powerful new work takes a compelling look at this historical space.
Women’s Circus is a not for profit arts organisation offering a year round circus and performance training program and producing socially engaged arts projects for women, trans and non-binary people and their communities. It is a proudly feminist organisation dedicated to individual well-being and community connectedness.
Creative Direction: Penelope Bartlau Circus Direction: Katy Burrows Devised by and Performers: Women’s Circus Members Design: Emily Barrie Sound Design: Kelly Anne Kimber Lighting Design: Georgina Wolfe Head Rigger and Rigging Design: Franca Stadler Production Manager: Beth Weatherly Stage Manager: Emma Telford Producer: Devon Taylor
The Drill Hall, 395 Barkly Street, West Footscray
Season: 21 November – 1 December 2019
Information and Bookings: www.womenscircus.org.au
Image: Lynne Regan – photo by Marie Watt