‘Let our people stay!’
In late March an ensemble comprising experienced actors alongside tenants of the Waterloo housing community staged an original play entitled Turning Towers. Workshopped over two months, the shows at South Sydney Uniting Church (March 30) and Redfern Town Hall (March 31) were produced by Milk Crate Theatre.
Turning Towers explores plans to redevelop the Waterloo estate, and the impact on a diverse community of up to 4,000 people. We see the condescending actions of a government minister and staffer, an overwhelmed community worker, bewildered and anxious residents fighting to maintain friendships and a sense of control and purpose amid dramatic change.
There is humour too, most notably in the figure of Miss Information and her Dance of the Seven Towers – various veils symbolising bureaucratic jargon and ideological spin. Tenants ask questions, resisting the charms of an ill-defined “Long-term Project” involving “Relocation”, “Social Housing” and “Social Mix”.
The performances are committed and compelling.
An interactive component of the show is skilfully led by Milk Crate directors/jokers Goldele Rayment and Jonnie Swift. “Spectactors” consider means of empowering an oppressed group – advocacy, intervention, organisation – then take the stage as scenes are replayed.
What emerges is a keen appreciation for what residents are enduring, as well as their considerable strengths and determination. In the wake of a Q&A session that follows the performance at Redfern Town Hall (hosted by Dr Michael Darcy from the University of Western Sydney), consensus regarding an ideal scenario takes shape: the redevelopment ought to be staged to allow all public housing tenants the option of staying in Waterloo with no temporary out-of-area relocations.