The privatisation of war initially seems like a benign concept – of course contractors need to rebuild infrastructure so why not make a few bucks out of it? The part that gets conveniently ignored, however, is the discussion about the amount of private security contractors currently engaged by allied forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan (and presumably many other political hotspots around the world). In 2007, an Australian security firm, Unity Resources Group, made headlines when their contractors killed two women in a vehicle in a Baghdad street for allegedly failing to stop at a security checkpoint. This is the catalyst of Version 1.0 theatre company’s analysis of the new war economy.
Created by a collaborative team of six writers –three of whom are also performing in the show –The Vehicle Failed To Stop was originally conceived the day this news aired after a long development process (including initial development through Sydney Theatre Company’s Rough Draft program). Performer and co-creator Jane Phegan, while young, has fast become a Sydney theatre veteran of sorts, working with many companies before settling down with Version 1.0 for the past few years. “We’ve been reordering scripts for the second day in a row,” Phegan says taking a break from rehearsal. “At the end of each day we’re convinced we’ve solved it and then we come in the next day and read it and go ‘nope, this needs to change.’ It’s very interesting the way this collective has gone. You argue your point strongly and at some point, somehow the best idea wins out. You give a little as well because you know that things are always going to keep changing until to end.”
With the performance employing various media and a complex array of storytelling techniques, the creators have been disciplined in their focus as they developed the story over the past six years. “I think because really, the story is just a starting point. What we’re looking at is privatisation and the privatisation of war,” says Phegan. “If people stand to make money then who stands to lose in that kind of environment? This concept can be applied to so many industries and it’s obviously not something that’s going away any time soon. Since 2007 we’ve talked about pulling our troops out of Iraq and many have been, but there are tens of thousands of private security contractors still over there and that’s really what’s relevant. You can say that you’ve withdrawn from a country but you haven’t; you’re still paying for a lot of people to be there.”
Version 1.0’s vision is to be engaging, and entertaining without aggressively pushing an ideology onto the audience. “Fortunately each individual artist has a different viewpoint themselves and there are a lot of debates in rehearsals,” says Phegan. “Usually when we hit on a topic that takes a long time to find a resolution, which is often just us agreeing to disagree, then we know we’ve come across a really important point for the show. If we as a small group of six are having a strong argument about a particular issue then chances are our larger audience will be grappling with that as well. We’re very focused on trying to open up a question rather than hitting people on the head with an ideology. Then as theatre makers we’re attempting to make that beautiful to watch. It’s very stylised and complex with video and movement and sound that uses engaging text to give the audience space to absorb these ideas.”
BY KRISSI WEISS
The Vehicle Failed To Stop presents at Carriageworks from October 15-26.