Posted Sunday 02 Jul 2017
Shirley Horrocks is firmly in the driver's seat of this documentary, being the director, producer, writer and co-researcher - and, impressively, it's her 10th documentary to screen at the NZIFF.
2017, 76 minutes, World Premiere
Founded by Peter Falkenberg in 1979, Christchurch's Free Theatre has provided a remarkably persistent alternative to the city's more vaunted legacy of traditional theatre. Favouring the event-based over the text-based, Falkenberg has steeped a succession of actors, writers and theatre technicians in the practice of an avant-garde theatre that has strong roots in his native Germany, while being constantly responsive to political and social change.
Free Theatre has often courted controversy and the film is studded with remembered provocations: audiences at a production of 1984 were separated from their friends and even forcibly evicted by costumed security guards.
Filmmaker Shirley Horrocks, who began shooting seven years ago when she first encountered Free Theatre's touring production Distraction Camp, is especially attentive to the shift in focus and a less combative - though no less satiric - imaginative engagement with community activation since the earthquakes.
At 37, Free Theatre has proven as definitive and resilient a Christchurch institution as the one Falkenberg set out to oppose, and richly deserving of Horrocks' documentary salute.