Christopher Samuel Carroll
I’ve been a resident artist at Belco Arts since the beginning of 2020. My aim had been to bring together an ensemble of actors to develop a series of theatre projects here at the arts centre, but as with so many plans for the last year, that all suddenly changed, forcing me to reimagine what was possible. As it turned out, by interrupting the cycle of one production after another that ordinarily dominates my practice, the pandemic offered me the chance to instead shift my focus onto my writing. The residency became an ‘artistic incubation’, as I spent much of the year cocooned away, researching, writing and developing new projects, which allowed me to maintain a sense of my practice and my identity as an artist throughout this period of uncertainty.
Having a quiet, dedicated space to come to each day (and oftentimes, stay late into the night) has really helped me to build momentum with my writing. It has also encouraged me to maintain healthier boundaries between my workplace and my home, and thereby, between my work as an artist, and all the other parts of life – no easy matter when your work is such a big part of your life. In my time at Belco Arts, I’ve researched and written the first draft of a new play about the dark arts of marketing in the tobacco and oil industries, called Smokescreen, and a new draft of a script I had been working on previously, Disintegration, which maps the breakdown of a relationship and the fragments of memory we take with us. I’ve also spent time editing The Stranger by Albert Camus for a one-man show, and have adapted a collection of Japanese stories for an ensemble piece called Way of the Samurai.
As restrictions began to ease in September, I was finally able to fulfil my goal of collaborative work with an ensemble, bringing together a group of actors for twice-weekly training and devising. The initial step of getting people together in a studio to move, play, and explore, in the context of this year and the isolating effect it has had on everyone, already represented the crossing of a threshold; having that regular, creative space to come together and remember what it is to be artists has held its own intrinsic value. This period, where live performance as we know it still wasn’t really an option, offered the initial platform to build that creative language together as a group, develop the skills and confidence to step beyond the role of performer, and grow into the role of creative artists.
Our work last year culminated in a two-week intensive development and a rehearsal-room showing of our work-in-progress for Way of the Samurai. This year, I’ll be looking to grow the ensemble, continuing our regular training, and moving towards staging productions for live audiences again. I hope the relationship between Bare Witness and Belco Arts can continue to develop, and the new theatre space at the centre can become a home for ambitious, independent, professional Canberran theatre. – Christopher Samuel Carroll
About Christopher Samuel Carroll
Christopher Samuel Carroll is an actor, writer, and theatremaker, trained at The Samuel Beckett Centre, Trinity College Dublin, and Ecole Jacques Lecoq, Paris. Since moving to Canberra from his native Ireland (via spells in France and Japan) he has become one of the city’s most prolific and celebrated performers, winning the inaugural Helen Tsongas award for Excellence in Acting in 2019 for his roles in Twelfth Night, Icarus, Howie the Rookie, and Metamorphosis. As artistic director of Bare Witness Theatre Company, he is renowned for creating raw, pulsating theatre that ignites the imagination.