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Asian Theatre Journal 18.2 (2001) 275-278

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Dis/orientations: Cultural Praxis in Theatre: Asia, Pacific, Australia. Monash Theatre Papers I. Edited and introduced by Rachel Fensham and Peter Eckersall. Clayton, Australia: Centre for Drama and Theatre Studies, Monash University, 1999. vi + 194 pp. Paperback $A20

The title of this volume, appearing as a deconstructed dictionary entry on its red-toned cover, originated at the 1997 Australasian Drama Studies (ADSA) conference titled "Disorientations: Intercultural Theatre in Australasia" hosted by Monash University in Melbourne. The complete cover design includes the artwork of Hou Leong and shows the artist costumed as Crocodile Dundee with an unidentified American-looking model. Inverted lettering and media culture photomontage alert the reader to the unsettling aim [End Page 275] of the editors. Any theatre person about to plan an "intercultural production project" ought to read this volume--and be prepared to redefine familiar perspectives, confront the new terms of theatre praxis, and appreciate "montage" for its ability to represent paradox over intercultural pastiche. The editors, Rachel Fensham and Peter Eckersall, have packed theory and criticism in their introduction, "Cultural Praxis in Theatre," and in the introductions to the four sections arranged as "Crossing Cultures in Theory," "National Identity and Cultural Representation," "Case Studies in Disorientation: Cross-Cultural Theatre at the Local Level," and "Studies in Reorientation? Western Theatre as Paradox." The sequence of nine revised and amplified conference papers, each offering useful additional notes and references, match and enhance the editors' mission--to expose naive and problematic assumptions about theatre and culture and their unfortunate effects on developed and developing theatres. After reading this volume, one would not want to be guilty of misusing terms such as "multiculturalism" and certainly would avoid any reference to "interculturalism," especially without acknowledging local "intraculturalism." By the conclusion, the reader has become familiar with cultural praxis and theatre terminology and, at least in the case of this reader, become a convert to theatre diplomacy.

The editors live up to their own theory by identifying the positions from which the essayists formulate observations on cross-cultural work; therefore, biographies of the nine contributing scholars, David George, Tadashi Uchino, William Peterson, Lynda Schulz, Jacqueline Martin, Paul Makeham, Alison Richards, Tony Day, and Glenn D'cruz, as well as the two editors and a guest artist, director Anne Bogart, are listed before the "Introduction." Furthermore, the volume contains an extensive amount of primary research materials from the contributors who support their reports and unsettling results drawn from Indonesia, Japan, Papua New Guinea (PNG), Singapore, Australia, New York, and London's West End over a period of nearly thirty years.

Cited in order of the text, the works include the 1989-1990 Murdoch University production of The Tempest in Bali directed by David George; the 1990 Heiner Mu¨ller Project initiated by Uchino Tadashi at the University of Tokyo, inspired by Mu¨ller's 1976 HamletMachine; the 1993 production of the folk play Land Dispute by the Raun Tsi Travelling Theatre for the East Sepik Cultural Trade Show; its 1994 Adelaide Festival production by the National Theatre of PNG; the 1996 production of Verdi's Aida for the Australasia Tour to Singapore directed by Michael Edgley; the 1993 Singapore production of Macbeth directed by William Teo of Asia in Theatre Research Centre in the style of Ariane Mnouchkine; the Lear produced by Singapore's Theatre Works founded by Ong Keng Sen; the two 1997 productions of Louis Nowra's Radiance by Kooemba Jdarra Indigenous Performing Arts in Brisbane and the Queensland Theatre Company; the 1983 production of Rol by Indonesia's Teater Gapit; the 1968 production of Alex Buzo's Norm and Ahmed at the Old Tote Theatre in Sydney; the 1977-1979 productions of Roger Pulvers' Yamashita in Canberra, Melbourne, and Adelaide; the 1978 production of Netsuke adapted and directed by Murray Copeland for the Adelaide Festival; the 1986-1987 production of Jill Shearer's Shimada by the Melbourne Theatre [End Page 276] Company; the 1974 production of John Romeril's The Floating World, directed by Lindzee Smith of the Australian Performing...