Saturday, March 2, 2024


Milk Crate Theatre in Review
Artistic Director: Margot Politis
107 Projects, Redfern
April 5 – April 13, 2023

Emergence is a retrospective look at, and a celebration of, Milk Crate’s 24 years of making performance work by and with people with lived experience of homelessness, mental health issues and disability. Engaging in a range of forms, Milk Crate offers its participants the space to transform their difficulties and turmoil into resonant theatrical presentations which play an important role in both their personal emergence and in bringing their issues to the wider community.

A slow walk around the exhibition looking at the large collection of photographs from Milk Crate’s earliest days at Edward Eager Lodge (1999-2001) to their present day affirms wholeheartedly Milk Crate’s belief in the power of theatre to release and transform. The energy and sense of living fully in the faces and gestures of so many different participants is moving and exciting. Theatre is a joyous and immersive experience and the photos –including the early black and whites of unknown photographers – testify to the truth of this.

The inclusion of several film suites offers an experience of a different kind. Waterloo (2022), a series of short films created and performed by the residents with lived experience of the uncertainty engendered by the redevelopment of the Waterloo Estate, gives a variety of responses from lyrical to satirical. The individual authenticity of each creation bears out the value of Milk Crate’s mission that all work be specifically crafted for and by the individuals involved – encompassing “what they wish to express” and the self they discover while they’re expressing it.

Reading the information attached to the many productions, we can get a sense of what engaging in a range of forms entails. Natural Order (2021) for instance, developed over two years, was created from workshops in live performance, writing, visual art, film, music and sound design and, in performance, led its audience on a journey around a shifting installation. A searching play, it poses a question very much relevant to the immediate present: how to challenge a politico-cultural order considered “natural” by the most powerful?

Finally, a word of praise must go to the stage setting of Tiny Universe (2021), a play which probes the gap between our inner and outer worlds and is the product of collaboration between Margot Politis and Natalie Rose of Shopfront Arts Co-op. In a brilliant stroke of stagecraft, the setting was composed of two levels of individual cubicles each personalised by the character whose small world it represented; one among many small and separate worlds. The setting is beautifully evoked by the 107 installation and accompanied by a film.

The opening night of the exhibition was abuzz with excitement and laughter, the meeting of friends and the reuniting of people from the past. After a sympathetic and warm Welcome to Country by Michael West, Margot Politis gave a lively picture of the genesis of the exhibition followed by charming interview with a long-time participant who testified with love to the transformation Milk Crate had brought to her life.



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