Socially conscious theatre company ActNow Theatre has opened up its Hindley Street home to emerging and underrepresented creators and communities.
Perched atop Hindley Street, ActNow Theatre’s new permanent home is easy to miss. “It’s got a bit of a weird history,” artistic director Edwin Kemp Attrill tells The Adelaide Review. “Once upon a time it was a textiles factory, and then there’s been a couple of arts organisations here 10 years ago, but most of the time it’s been vacant. A lot of people walk through Station Arcade and don’t look up – we’re in this little hidden gem.”
Dubbed MakeSpace, this mixture of co-working, rehearsal and performance spaces presented an opportunity to bolster the organisation’s community focus in a dramatic new way. “A lot of the work that we do is interactive, so it’s about finding ways to give the power to the audience, or give power to communities,” Kemp Attrill says. “We want to be able to engage with the communities we work with, and have the space as a place where people can make theatre and share stories and create work.
“The main communities we work with are Queer, First Nations and culturally/linguistically diverse,” he says, with current ActNow projects tackling themes like Islamophobia and virtual intimacy. “It’s a range of different projects, and MakeSpace is the central hub of our program and other artists we work with.”
Being able to provide a safe and centrally located physical location is particularly important for supporting and empowering those communities. “Having a space is both practical and political,” he says. “To have access to private space is something that a lot of communities don’t have; there are a lot of people in society who are marginalised, that don’t have physical spaces that they can go in to create their stories.
“So for is its quite a political thing to be able to carve out that space, and make that space for people to use. And for a lot of people who are using it, it’s free of charge so it’s our way to engage with these communities.”
In addition to a string of Adelaide Fringe performances later in the year, MakeSpace also hosts monthly open mic poetry event Soul Lounge, which has previously used libraries and cafes to provide a platform to artists from diverse, often migrant backgrounds.
For Kemp Attrill, the support given to ActNow over the past decade has driven home the value of such networks, and its own duty to keep building them. “I was 17 when I started the company with a couple of friends from high school, and for the first 10 years we worked in five different co-working spaces, always sharing from other organisations,” he recalls.
“Most recently that was Carclew, who provided a lot of support for us at a time when we couldn’t afford our own space. This year is about us paying it forward, knowing there’s a lot of independent artists and organisations that don’t have the resources to have their own space, we want to share ours.”
Level 2, 52 Hindley Street, Adelaide
ActNow Theatre / Kate Pardey