Panther interview – Playground, a new world order

Posted on September 3, 2009 by


lala was extremely excited to talk to Maddy Hodge and Sarah Rodigari (Panther) after their successful Arts House season of Playground, a new world order. They answered the questions as both a single entity (I) and also as a group (we).

lala: tell me a bit about Playground the work and where it came from?

Panther: Playground, a new world order was originally developed in 2007 for Anti Contemporary Arts Festival, a small and truly amazing contemporary arts festival in a little town in Kuopio, Finland. Anti Festival presents site-specific work for public spaces and the Uppo Nalle children’s park was one of them. When they first asked us to present something we had this idea of creating something like a massive fair day but as we started spending lot of time in playgrounds and watching children play, our idea really shifted. As adults, we kept trying to understand the playground, how the space is negotiated and how children play and interact with each other. We also kept talking about what we used to do in playgrounds but now that we are older, we felt removed and it seemed harder to run up a slide, to cross the monkey bars, to imagine worlds other than the reality of this one. We began to think of the playground as a world of shifting narrative spaces, we liked the way it could be any space depending on the stories you are telling, the playground is a structure that can contain many structures. We then looked to the structure of the journey of a hero as a story that can contain may stories. We liked to try and understand how these spatial and imaginal worlds could be slotted into each other through the structure of the heroic narrative.

lala: …and the subsequent seasons?

We then presented the show as part of Live Works at the performance Space, Sydney in 2008. The audiences were much larger and we had set performance times, where as in Finland we were there for three days from 10am – 6pm and tours happened whenever enough people had gathered to make it interesting, sometimes we waited a long time in the cold for enough people, so in Sydney we had a much more specific structure.

lala: how did the Finnish participants in the original work differ to the Australian ones?

Panther: The groups in Finland were smaller and the playground was much bigger. I guess in Kuopio it was a slightly more intimate experience and our performances happened amongst other children playing, there was a sense in kuppio that the adults where sharing the world with the children. Sydney was quite rowdy, it was a smaller playground and we had a lot more people so the performances would at times interrupt other games, which really raised lots of questions about how we could/should negotiate and share the space with the children, at times, in Sydney it felt like we were an invading force interrupting their play.

lala: How did you find the Melbourne season at Arts House?

The season Arts House was an incredible challenge and an amazing opportunity. By putting playground inside a theatre space it really became a whole new performance. It raised a lot of questions about how imagination and interactivity needed to be re-addressed in a theatre space. An audience enters the theatre with a very different expectation to an outdoor playground and of course the relationship to the playground shifted when it was brought inside. The performance felt less about adults negotiating a children’s playground and themselves as children and more about how to take on and negotiate the role of the audience/performer to create their own heroic narrative in such a short period of time in a space that is reminiscent of a playground (but certainly not) in a space constructed specifically for them to play in.


lala: you were placed in a season of quite varied works, i know you probably didn’t get to see them all but can you give me an idea of how you think your work fitted with the rest?

Panther: It was a real privilege to be part of such a skilfully curated season, it seemed that a lot of the works had really interesting intersections between them. I really liked the relationship between our work and the work of forced entertainment, post and ontroend goet. They were the three works we saw and it really felt as though these works complimented each other, with ideas of limits, lies, death and our expectations of performance spanning each of the works. To have our work situated as part of that dialogue gave us an opportunity for reflection on the work we wouldn’t otherwise have had.

lala: I found the experience of being in the work really exciting, like some sort of reversion experience, and it wasn’t til later i realised i had reverted to the person i am – but also the person i was as a child. This isn’t a question, more a statement…

Panther: Its funny you say that I am not sure where a work like this sits as an art work some people commented that it was like therapy, a sort of community service or like a deliberate attempt to illicit a reversion to childhood, in a way that is a lovely byproduct of something that to me seems a lot darker and more melancholy.

lala: It is called ‘new world order’ – is this an attempt to challenge peoples imaginative worlds more? – for people to create their own imaginal world in the reality they have?

Panther: It does ask an audience to really engage with their imagination, which seems like treat as we get older. I think it is about shifting perspectives, considering personal histories and the narratives that we create in our lives be they fact or fiction. As you say its also about the potential to create a new world order in our own lives, telling ourselves new stories and engendering the feeling that anything is possible,

lala: the work was originally in a playground but for the Meat Market season, it was in a constructed playground inside the building. i was concerned about this – thinking that it would bring down the level of play of participants, but it didn’t, how did you feel about this theatrical space?

I guess we felt like the meat market space works as a sort of outside inside space. It’s a fake theatre, a reappropriated space which is definitely part of its charm. The shift into this space makes the work feel a lot more stylised, focussed and artificial. We felt like this would make it possible to create more tension around eliciting the performance from the audience. I liked the lights, the flatness of the sound, the awkwardness.

Thankyou Panther!

Posted in: Interviews