Epitaph for a Theatre, perhaps, but not yet. The Archway 1 Theatre Company is a small theatre tucked away under the Number 1 (one of many) massive brick archways of an old railway goods line crossing Federal Park, itself a part of the larger Bicentennial Park in Annandale. The Theatre has been served with an Eviction Notice, this idiotic piece of bastardry has been signed sealed and delivered by Sydney City Council, a council which describes its larger self as a City of Villages. Well they do say every village has one don’t they, no silly, not every village has a theatre but every village claims an idiot and boy do we have ’em.
I once jokingly called Clover Moore a vulgar person; it was on the occasion I volunteered to write Copy for her and her upcoming re-election campaign. Recently I have thought that should I have the opportunity of meeting her again and with the Archway 1 Theatre’s current predicament (eviction from premises) in mind I would not hesitate to add Philistine to my small list and her pygmy persona. I say pygmy because that‟s what she has proven herself to be. Only a small person- a little Martinet would send in the Goon squad with an Eviction Notice immediately after the supporters of Archway 1 Theatre wrote to the Lord Mayor, Councillors and Managers seeking to exercise their right to be heard, to defend and to persuade council that the Archway 1 Theatre Company should stay and deserves to stay in their current premises. But dare to challenge the martinet with the pygmy persona and she‟ll soon show you who‟s boss. Bugger your democratic rights I‟m the Lord Mayor and what I say goes, now shut up and get out of my way. YOU‟RE EVICTED! It is unlikely I shall make my offer again, but that‟s the slings and arrows of life for you. ‘Talk to us Clover’ is currently an online mantra of the Archway 1 Theatre, but it ain‟t happening – I wonder why. Her silence as they say is deafening. Pity.
But then, kind person that I am, I remembered some basics that the father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud discovered about certain people, and how sublimation can play an extraordinary part in people’s lives. Witness the cruel sadistic boy who later becomes an astonishing surgeon. Or a person called to Holy orders who sublimate everything to the service of a deity. Or an artist, Caravaggio for example, who somehow managed to live in both realms. And of course there is Freud‟s daughter Anna, herself a gifted psychoanalyst, who classes sublimation as one of the major ‘defence mechanisms’ of the psyche. And then there’s H.S. Sullivan.
Harry Stack Sullivan, the pioneer of interpersonal psychoanalysis, defined sublimation as the unwitting substitution of a partial satisfaction with social approval for the pursuit of a direct satisfaction which would be contrary to one’s ideals or to the judgment of social censors and other important people who surround one. The substitution might not be quite what we want, but it is the only way that we can get part of our satisfaction and feel secure, too. Sullivan documented that all sublimatory things are more complicated than the direct satisfaction of the needs to which they apply. They entail no disturbance of consciousness, no stopping to think why they must be done or what the expense connected with direct satisfaction would be. In successful sublimation, Sullivan observed extraordinarily efficient handling of a conflict between the need for a satisfaction and the need for security without perturbation of awareness. Source: Wikipedia.
…without perturbation of awareness indeed, and hang the expense. When Rachel Jordan co-founder of the Archway 1 Theatre Company invited a passing Clover Moore to look inside the Theatre (already under threat of closure) and to see what the founders had accomplished within that small and quirky space, little would she have known that the sublimated Moore could not offer help, could not smooth the way, could not adjust her and councils position and decision, no, Moore only offers less. Because faced with the untidy cobbled together exterior made from old corrugated iron, and the people who have adapted to this rough make-do space, the very stuff of an older more authentic, roll your sleeves up and do – it – yourself Australia, Moore could only have been offended. This is not neat and tidy, not sterile, not the kind of place the Lord Mayor would be seen dead in. This is the kind of place that Henry Lawson would have pulled up a chair, sharpened his pencil and got to work, but even Lawson would have been ‘moved on’ by Clovers *Wide Boys, and his protests against the perfidy of the Lord Mayors actions and the cleansing with industrial grade antiseptic of the untidy pockets that remain within her reach would have fallen on the same deaf ears that the Archway 1 Theatre directors and supporters have discovered.
Witness Kings Cross, gone, with not so much a backward glance, cleaned up and flogged off. Not for Clover the untidy unruly chthonian nature of Sydney‟s great pressure relief valve. Not for our Clover the tapestry of the ersatz development with its patchwork quilt of colours and the lackadaisical design of shopfronts and streetscapes, no quirky people allowed here, move on, move on, Move! No! everything must conform to the monoculture of the unimaginative sterile landscape, and sterile streetscapes are now in favour; witness Paddington‟s Oxford Street, already suffering from too many wipe downs with Australia‟s favourite bleach Domestos, the stuff they hawk as Hospital Grade Disinfectant, and to which too many Councillors and Town planners are prone to sniff then apply.
And so the Archway 1 Theatre Company is up for disinfecting, let’s wipe away a quirky pocket in a corner of a city park because the Lord Mayor is offended by the untidy exterior, because she can’t see or can’t be bothered to see what goes on within, remember Harry Stack Sullivan‟s observation [that] “extraordinarily efficient handling of a conflict between the need for a satisfaction and the need for security without perturbation of awareness.” Right on Harry! So let’s gut a theatre, let‟s bump it out stage left, never mind the fact that this theatre ticks all of Councils own boxes on what, where and why a community based art facility is and should be. Archway 1 wins this argument hands down, and what does some Council Wide Boy have to say in response to being pulled up by his lapels in this regard? “We’re not turning Council policy on its head to suit you.” Really. Then why have a policy in the first place, but you do have a policy don‟t you, so why not apply it to one and all? There is no need to turn Councils own policy on its head, just apply it fairly and across the board. And while we‟re on policy, why wasn’t the Archway 1 Theatre included in councils Master plan for the redevelopment of the park? A little oversight was it, ignoring your own policy? Convenient.
Speaking of fair; when a council Wide Boy say’s the Archway 1 Theatre is squatting in the premises, they are telling lies and spreading disinformation (with apologies to any who identify as Pygmy, but how low can a lying pygmy go?) Archway 1 pays rent and can prove it. Perhaps Council is aggravated or offended that the Archway 1 Theatre has never asked for Council funding or any other support or handout (and therefore the Piper gets to call no tunes) for the Archway 1 Theatre is entirely self-funding, in itself this is testament to relevance, resilience and perseverance. This spirit, this reminder of a time when ‘you just got on with it’ perhaps doesn’t suit a council who think provincially, you know, the way villager’s do.
Why does Sydney call itself a City of villages? I’m not exactly sure, but if we look hard enough it won‟t be too hard to identify the Village idiots. How can people who promote diversity, inclusion, community values, tolerance, acceptance and any other ‘Tick Box’ word you want to use to sound like you care get to destroy something that has been painstakingly built up over the years by the co-founders, local community, playwright’s, designer’s, director’s, a loyal and supportive audience not to mention the many actor’s, poet’s, musician’s, raconteur’s, storyteller’s, artist’s, thinker’s and dreamer’s who have trodden its boards.
This theatre, this vibrant hub for and of the community is to be replaced by a Skate park. But here‟s the thing, how long before the pristine arches of the Railway viaduct are smothered with graffiti? ‘Oh but it‟s the Skaters way of self-expressing’ some council apparatchik will say, like there aren’t enough stake parks in the area already, and it’s not as if they don‟t have form, and it’s not as if we’ll get a better class of graffiti. I’ll give it a week before the Council starts getting complaints about noise and anti-social behaviour, but hey that’s OK the Wide Boy’s and the village idiot’s are not perturbed by awareness, and no amount of Domestos will ever restore those pristine brick arches or the Lord Mayors reputation. Nor will it salve the community‟s loss, its sense of place and the spirit that has developed here in the shadow of that old corrugated iron façade. And we can be sure Clover Moore will never pass this way again for she would be most offended by the unruly skaters, their graffiti and urban style, not for her the genuine patois of the street. Shame, but then again what can one do when Moore equals less.
Back to Harry Stack Sullivan, who defined sublimation as “The unwitting substitution of a partial satisfaction with social approval for the pursuit of a direct satisfaction which would be contrary to one’s ideals or to the judgment of social censors and other important people who surround one.”
But here’s the rub Harry, Anna and Sigmund, how do you define a person who sublimates in reverse? How do you identify the motives of a person who instead of turning the base, craven, chthonian instincts we all abhor and deny into the positive, instead sublimates a theatre and a community into a concrete Skate Park? What kind of person does that? What kind of person takes something of value and substitutes it with something less? What sort of village does that kind of person live in, and what do we think of that kind of person? I don‟t know about you but one thing I do know; I’m told every village has one, and this one’s been elected to a powerful position. WTF were we thinking when we ticked the box next to her name, next time we’ll remember Moore equal less.
The Vulgarian and the Philistine have reverse sublimated; this is to her shame and our great cost. The only winners here are the Skaters, a group who didn’t even ask for a Skate park. Is Sydney City Council now operating on the premise “Build it and they will come?” If that‟s the way you operate, how about building smart façade‟s for archways 1-5 and giving the local non-profit, community based theatre, artists hub and education centre secure tenancy and some support, go on Clover, put your own selfish need aside and really do something positive, get out from behind your Tick-Box culture and pygmy thinking and do something truly innovative, creative and rewarding. After all, the Archway 1 Theatre Company already ticks all of councils own boxes on councils community arts policy, we just need one more tick, yours.
We don‟t really want to get under your ‘defences’ but we do want to get behind you, we want you to look at that old crusty corrugated iron façade and instead of imagining it gone and the Theatre and its community with it, imagine it transformed into something that will let us flourish and not wither away as you would now have it, for the need of your psyche is toxic to ours, and, perhaps we can help you with that. Hope.
*Wide Boy: An unscrupulous person, a deceiver, a lout. Someone who is paid to act in these ways.