City Hub
March 20, 2008
City News
March 22, 2008


The actors of Playback Theatre take the real stories of audience members and turn them into live theatre. Playback’s Johanna de Ruyter says the outcome may be humorous, poignant or revealing, all in the same show. “Scenes inspired by the honest stories an audience volunteers make for very funny and surprisingly moving theatre,” she says.

First created in New York in 1975, this original form of improvisational theatre involves audience members telling stories from their lives, and watching them enacted on the spot. The Playback Theatre form has flourished all over the world, with the Sydney-based company of performers spontaneously re-creating people’s stories and life experiences for over 25 years.

Playback’s shows are accessible and engaging, involving collaboration between the audience, performers and musicians. A performance is led by a conductor, who facilitates the sharing of audience stories and experiences. The actors and musician then re-enact these stories, using a variety of improvisational forms. Each performance is a one-off, with a new theme, created in the moment for a single audience.

Johanna says it’s an art form that requires intensive listening skills, trust and dedication but that it’s full of rewards. She says that somehow the immediacy of group and personal experiences is transformed by the power of theatrical performance.

‘It seemed like a good idea at the time’ is the theme Playback will be exploring in their March 30 show. “When you think back, what seemed like a good idea to you then and maybe doesn’t now? Or maybe it started something new? What story would you tell?” Johanna asks. “That’s the line of enquiry we will be exploring and I’m sure there are some great stories. Just try asking yourself those questions,” she says.

Playback’s performances, with a new theme each time, are taking place on the last Sunday of each month until July at Newtown Theatre. “Come and watch, and dare to tell your story,” Johanna says. “Together we’ll go on a journey to the depths and heights of our collective history.”

Playback Theatre
Newtown Theatre
Cnr King and Bray Sts, Newtown
Last Sunday of each month (It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time on March 30), 5pm
$20 at the door