Mr Dawes Pronounces Well

Live performance work in development

Development stage of a multi-disciplinary performance work based on the notebooks of First Fleet marine/astronomer/surveyor William Dawes who recorded his encounters between 1788-1790 with the indigenous peoples of the Sydney foreshore area most notably young Cadigal woman, Patyegarang.

The investigation of the historical source material is not an end in itself, and we are not looking to dramatize history by ‘mimicking’ the encounter between Dawes and Pateygarang. The historical documents are a provocation to stimulate investigation and debate between the artists (and the audience).

The live action process will involve the opening up of the primary source notebook text through the actor’s physiology of movement, voice, physical and emotional inter-relationships with Dawes text (words, correction marks, and spaces/silences between the words) and each other. Other source material will be diaries and letters that refer to Dawes and Pateygarang (i.e., Elizabeth Macarthur’s letters & journals). The secondary source material will be current writings and interpretations of their encounter (i.e. Inga Clendinnen’s Dancing With Strangers). The other source text will be what the artists bring of themselves to the work, personal text, cultural stories, constellation and creation myths  and their ‘speakings back’ to Dawes and Pateygarang from varying viewpoints. We aim to devise a chorus ensemble of indigenous performers to counterpoint the dual Dawes – Patyegarang  protagonist/s structure.

Stage 1 development took place at Bundanon Artists Retreat, NSW in Winter 2009. Stage 2 took place at Critical Path Sydney in January 2011.