Edwin Kemp Attrill created his own career as a theatre director. By-passing the typical drama school pathway, he established his own company ActNow Theatre for Social Change at the age of 16. Starting with a focus on political street performance, their first work was about detained Guantanamo Bay inmate David Hicks.
Under Kemp Atrill the company went on to have a particular focus on forum theatre, with their work Expect:Respect, about sexual harassment and date-rape, touring South Australian schools and youth prisons, alongside a series of more traditional but politically informed works, such as 1984 and An Enemy of the People.
After leaving ActNow to pursue new directing opportunities, Kemp Attrill was afforded the opportunity of being the first Artistic Director of the University of Adelaide Theatre Guild in many years. In a previous incarnation, this role was last held by Chris Drummond, who went on to be the Associate Director at the State Theatre Company and is now the Artistic Director of Brink Productions. The Guild has framed this AD role as a professional development opportunity: time for a professional to spend time with directing as their primary profession, while also bringing something new to the amateur company.
While the Guild has a history of radicalism this has waxed and waned over the years, and by the time I studied at the university the Guild had a reputation – amongst students, at least – as one of conservatism. Always a “town and gown” society, the guild had become much more “town”; the Guild didn’t even hold a table at O’Week when I started. Some of these things have changed since my time – the much needed establishment of “student only” productions one factor – but I was very excited to see both the Guild and Kemp Attrill afforded this partnership, not least of all because I consider him a very close friend, but also because of the wonderful opportunity of resources it gives to up-coming directors, and onwards into the greater Adelaide theatrical landscape.
I give you this rather long introduction to this review, as this background is what I have been trying to process since seeing Kemp Attrill’s first mainstage work for the Guild. His production of Jean Anouilh’s Antigone (in translation by Lewis Galantiere) is by all accounts a solid production. It’s biggest downfall, and my greatest puzzlement with the work, is the air of conservatism through the piece.