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The Woman in the Bridge
MCA ARTBAR, 2012
Full performance script for dialogical reading
The bridge is more than 30 years old. It was constructed during the Great Depression and during World War II. During this time, the right wing agitated the political scene, accusing the Labour government of stealing money from the Empire. The builder, John Bradfield was stoic throughout: 'This is one chapter in the romance of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which I someday I hope to write. Romance never dies; it as beautiful as the line where the sun and sky meet beyond the boundless expanse of the oceans… Men of courage, unselfishness, endurance and patience win through and so it has been and so it will be." – John Job Crew Bradfield from his diary
The script is divided into two parts. The part of Mrs Bradfield, the Bridge builder's wife, is read by the participant, but they hold up the script for Lily and she holds up theirs. Lily plays the spirit of the old Harbour Bridge, now razed. Together, they take turns to read out their lines to each other. A shonky set of an enlarged print of the Sydney Harbour provides the scenography.
The Harbour Bridge is a spectacle in Sydney, but few people know its political history. In this dialogical performance, I engaged people in a miniature theatre in the shared reading of the script. Volunteer readers played the role of the woman Bradfield, the man who built the bridge, and I played the Woman in the Bridge, the spirit of a bridge was eradicated from history and memory, as indicated in enlarged printed photograph which gie a clue to the mise en scene for the work: for indeed the bridge has gone!
MRS BRADFIELD: Who the hell are you?
BRIDGE: I'm Sydney Harbour Bridge!
MRS BRADFIELD: You don't look too good. What happened?
MRS BRADFIELD: They call you The Coathanger.
BRIDGE: What did you ever do?
MRS BRADFIELD: I was faithful to my husband.
BRIDGE: At least I stood up for myself, as a woman.
MRS BRADFIELD: I was strong, in my own right… I was young and pretty!
MRS BRADFIELD: I'll tell you the true story of your making –it's a tale of two cities: south shore, north shore.
BRIDGE: What would you know?
MRS BRADFIELD: Okay! You were the emblem of a divided country, driven to the brink of civil war.
MRS BRADFIELD: We were the largest white city in the Empire, outside London. The picture of a healthy, happy girl with pearly teeth and a clean white dress.
BRIDGE: You mean everyone in this room? Do they have the Plague?
MRS BRADFIELD: Jack Lang dominated the affair.
MRS BRADFIELD: They called him a dictator. He emptied the State coffers for you. 10 million pounds. It was the Great Depression. A global crisis. It struck us down. We were hysterical.
BRIDGE: That's why I am haunting this town… look at me.
MRS BRADFIELD: Lang took us to the edge of a revolution.
BRIDGE: Is that an angophora tree?
MRS BRADFIELD: Yes! So beautiful but now rare.
MRS BRADFIELD: What can we do? It's the fucking March of Progress.
BRIDGE: All cut down, all felled. All felled.
MRS BRADFIELD: You're just a faded memory. Rubbed out. Like in the photo.