Destabilising Notions of the Unfamiliar in Australian Documentary Theatre: version 1.0’s CMI (A Certain Maritime Incident)

Ulrike Garde


This article offers a fresh analysis of Sydney-based version 1.0’s theatre production CMI (A Certain Maritime Incident, 2004), which engaged with asylum seekers arriving by boat in the context of the so-called ‘children overboard affair’ and the maritime disaster, in which over 300 people from the SIEV X, a brittle Indonesian fishing boat, perished. The performance invited audiences to see the unfamiliar in themselves rather than in those frequently rejected as ‘the other’. In doing so, it questioned common notions of the unfamiliar that is perceived by audiences as different, foreign or insufficiently known, and interrupted a long tradition of opposing the familiar culture(s) of Australians and the unfamiliar culture(s) of the ‘boat people’. The article explores how version 1.0 used effectively a destabilisation of meaning, a playful inversion of socio-political responsibilities and challenged common notions of the roles of fact and fiction in order to offer an alternative perspective on public events, thus making an important contribution to Australia’s communicative memory of issues that continue to be pertinent beyond Australian borders.


documentary theatre, the unfamiliar, refugees and asylum seekers, memory, fact and fiction

Full Text:



Albrecht, C. 2003, 'Fremdheit, ' in Handbuch Interkulturelle Germanistik, (eds) A. Wierlacher & A. Bogner. Metzler, Stuttgart: 23238.

Appudurai, A. 2009, 'Beyond Multiculturalism?, ' Opening Lecture for Beyond Multiculturalism? Fragen an die Einwanderungsgesellschaft, Haus der Kulturen, 46 Juni. Online, available: [Accessed 22 October 2010].

Assmann, J. 2008, 'Communicative and Cultural Memory, ' in Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook, (eds) A. Erll & A. Nnning. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin & New York: 10918.

Barton, B. 1987, Das Dokumentartheater. Metzler, Stuttgart.

Bottoms, S. J. 2006, 'Putting the Document into Documentary: An Unwelcome Corrective?, ' TDR: The Drama Review, vol. 50, no. 3: 5668.

Brecht, B. 1993, 'ber experimentelles Theater, ' in Werke. Groe Kommentierte Berliner und Frankfurter Ausgabe, (eds) W. Hecht, J. Knopf, W. Mittenzwei, & K-D. Mller. Aufbau-Verlag/Suhrkamp, Berlin und Weimar/Frankfurt am Main: 54057.

Burvill, T. 2008. 'Politics Begins as Ethics': Levinasian Ethics and Australian Performance Concerning Refugees, ' Research in Drama Education, vol. 13, no. 2: 23343.

Castles, S. 2011, 'Refugees, Asylum and the Global Order, ' Keynote for Human Rights, Refugees and Asylum Seekers, Public Lecture organised by The Australian Sociological Association and Macquarie Centre for Research on Social Inclusion, 21 July.

Carroll, D. 1995, Australian Contemporary Drama. Currency, Sydney.Commonwealth of Australia. 2007, Becoming an Australian Citizen. Citizenship. Your Commitment toAustralia, Canberra.

Derrida, J. 1972, Marges de la Philosophie. Minuit, Paris.

Dreysse, M. & Malzacher, F. (eds) 2007, Experten des Alltags. Das Theater von Rimini Protokoll. Alexander Verlag, Berlin.

Dreysse, M. 2008, Experts of the Everyday. The Theatre of Rimini Protokoll. Alexander Verlag, Berlin.

Drrenmatt, F. 1982, 'Problems of the Theater, ' in Plays and Essays, (ed.) V. Sander. Continuum, New York: 23162.

Dwyer, P. 2004, 'Tonight's Proceedings.' Program Note for CMI by version 1.0, Performance Space, Sydney, March.

Dwyer, P. 2006, 'The Inner Lining of Political Discourse: Presenting the version 1.0 Remix of the Senate Select Committee on a Certain Maritime Incident, "' Australasian Drama Studies, no. 48, April: 13035."

'Estrange.' 2005, The Macquarie Dictionary. Online, available: [Accessed 22 January 2013].

'Executive Summary.' Select Committee for an Inquiry into a Certain Maritime Incident. 2002. Online, available: [Accessed 22 October 2010].

Fischer-Lichte, E. 1995, 'Einleitung: Wahrnehmung, Krper, Sprache, ' in TheaterAvantgarde. WahrnehmungKrperSprache, (ed.) E. Fischer-Lichte. Francke, Tbingen & Basel: 114.

Fischer-Lichte, E. 2005, 'Politisches Theater'in Metzler Lexikon Theatertheorie, (eds) E. Fischer-Lichte, D. Kolesch & M. Warstat. Metzler, Stuttgart: 24245.

Friedrich, H-E. 2000, 'Datenschutt" und "Unsicherheitsrelation." Die sthetische Konstruktion von Wirklichkeit im Dokumentartheater (Hochhuth, Kipphardt, Weiss), ' Zeitschrift fr deutsche Philologie, vol. 119, no. 2: 26889."

Gallasch, K. 2004, 'Children Overboard: Outrage and Performance, ' RealTime, no. 59, FebruaryMarch. Online, available: [Accessed 14 January 2012].

Gampel, Y. 2000, 'Reflections on the Prevalence of the Uncanny in Social Violence, ' in Cultures under Siege. Collective Violence and Trauma, (eds) A. C. G. M. Robben & M. M. Surez-Orozco. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge & New York: 4869.

Garde, U. 2013 [forthcoming], 'Reality and Realism in Contemporary German Theatre Performances, ' in Realisms in Contemporary Culture: Theories, Politics and Medial Configurations, (eds) D. Birke & S. Butter. De Gruyter, Berlin.

Gilbert, H. & Lo, J. 2007, Performance and Cosmopolitics: Cross-Cultural Transactions in Australasia. Palgrave Macmillan, London.

Grant, H. & Domokos, J. 2011, 'Dublin Regulation Leaves Asylum Seekers with Their Fingers Burnt, ' The Guardian, 7 October. Online, available: [Accessed 14 January 2012].

Gutjahr, O. 2010, 'Interkulturalitt als Forschungsparadigma der Literaturwissenschaft. Von den Theoriedebatten zur Analyse kultureller Tiefensemantiken, ' in Zwischen Provokation und Usurpation: Interkulturalitt als (Un)vollendetes Projekt der Literatur-und Sprachwissenschaften, (eds) D. Heimbckel, I. Honnef-Becker, G. Mein & H. Sieburg. Fink, Mnchen:1739.

Hall, S. 2003, Questions of Cultural Identity. Sage, London.

Hazou, R. 2011. 'Intermedial Voices: Documentary Theatre and the Refugee Experience in Version 1.0's CMI (A Certain Maritime Incident), ' Platform: Journal of Theatre and Performing Arts, vol. 6, no. Online, available: [Accessed 30 January 2013].

Horin, R. 2005, Through the Wire. Unpublished manuscript.

Iser, W. 1993, The Fictive and the Imaginary. Charting Literary Anthropology. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

Iser, W. 2006, 'Reception Theory, ' in How to Do Theory, (ed.) W. Iser. Blackwell, Malden, MA: 5769.

Jamieson, N. 2004, In Our Name. Unpublished Manuscript.

Jestrovic, S. 2006, Theatre of Estrangement: Theory, Practice, Ideology. University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

Jestrovic, S 2008, 'Performing Like an Asylum Seeker: Paradoxes of Hyper-Authenticity, ' Research in Drama Education, vol. 13, no. 2: 15970.

Knaller, S. & Mller, H. 2005, 'authentisch / Authentizitt, ' in Historisches Wrterbuch der sthetischen Grundbegriffe, (eds) K. Barck, M. Fontius, D. Schlenstedt, D. Steinwachs, & F. Wolfzettel. Metzler, Stuttgart: 4065.

Kolesch, D. 2005, 'Wilde Laute und mediale Resonanzen. Fremde Stimmen im Theater der Gegenwart.' Jahrbuch Deutsch als Fremdsprache 31, 20815.

Kushner, A. R. J. 2006, Remembering Refuge : Then and Now. Manchester University Press, Manchester.

Leaky Boat, 'Synopsis.' 2011. Online, available: [Accessed 14 July 2011].

Leggewie, C. & Zifonun, D. 2010, 'Was heit Interkulturalitt?, ' Zeitschrift fr interkulturelle Germanistik, no. 1: 1231.

Lehmann, H-T. 1999, Postdramatisches Theater. Frankfurt am Main, Verlag der Autoren.

Lehmann, H-T 2006, Postdramatic Theatre, (trans. & intro.) K. Jrs-Munby. Routledge, London & New York.

Lehmann, H-T 2008a, 'Theory in Theatre? Observations on an Old Question, ' in Experts of the Everyday: The Theatre of Rimini Protokoll, (eds) M. Dreysse & F. Malzacher. Alexander Verlag, Berlin: 15267.

Lehmann, H-T 2008b, 'Vom Zuschauer, ' in Paradoxien des Zuschauens. Die Rolle des Publikums im Zeitgenssischen Theater, (ed.) J. Deck & A. Sieburg. Bielefeld, transcript: 2126.

Maclean, A. 2004, 'Verbatim Theatre Inquiries, ' Canberra Times, 21 October: 9.

Mamouney, D. 2002, Citizen X: Letters from Detention, the Human Stories Behind the Politics. Script. Online, available: [Accessed 20 December 2011].

Marr, D. 2009, 'Who's Afraid of the R" Word?, ' The Age. Online, available: [Accessed 15 January 2012]."

Marriner, C. 2009, 'Tragedy Haunts Music, ' The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 October. Online, available: [Accessed 10 January 2012].

McCallum, J. 2004, 'Human Drama Lost in a Sea of Words, ' The Australian, 2 April: 17.

McCallum, J 2006, 'CMI" ("A Certain Maritime Incident"): Introduction, ' Australasian Drama Studies, no. 48, April: 13642."

McCallum, J 2009, Belonging. Australian Playwriting in the 20th Century. Currency Press, Sydney.

Meston, R. 2004, 'A Certain Maritime Incident, ' Artlook, 5 October. Online, available: [Accessed 11 April 2008].

Metzger, S. 2010, Theater und Fiktion. Spielrume des Fiktiven in Inszenierungen der Gegenwart. Bielefeld, transcript.

Midwinter Pitt, V. 2011, Leaky Boat, ABC Television, 7 July.

Mumford, M. 2003. 'Verfremdung, ' The Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre and Performance, (ed.) D. Kennedy. Oxford University Press, Oxford: 14045.

Nolan, T. 2004, 'A Certain Maritime Incident: Pure Theatre, "' The World Today, ABC Radio National."

Nickel-Bacon, I., Groeben, N., & Schreier, M. 2000, 'Fiktionssignale pragmatisch. Ein medienbergreifendes Modell zur Unterscheidung von Fiktion(en) und Realitt(en), ' Poetica, no. 34: 26799.

'Official Committee Hansard.' 2002, Select Committee on a Certain Maritime Incident, 5 April. Online, available: [Accessed 2 December 2011].

O'Mahoney, I. 2011, Go Back to Where You Have Come From, SBS Television, 2123 June.

Paget, D. 1998, No Other Way to Tell It: Dramadoc/Docudrama on Television. Manchester University Press, Manchester.

Phillips, J. 2012, 'The Pacific Solution" Revisited: a Statistical Guide to the Asylum Seeker Caseloads on Nauru and Manus Island, ' Parliament of Australia, Department of Parliamentary Services, 4 September. Online, available:;f ileType=application%2Fpdf [Accessed 3 January 2013]."

Schmidt, D. 20012002, Xenophobe-Shipwreck Scene, Dedicated to the 353 Drowned Asylum Seekers who Died on the Indian Ocean, on the Morning of October 19. Online, available: [Accessed 13 July 2011].

Siegel, M. 2011, 'In Australia, Reality TV Tackles Immigration, ' New York Times, 21 June. Online, available: [Accessed 14 July 2011].

'SIEV X Memorial. A Pictorial Report of the Memorial Held in Canberra.' 2006, RealTime, no. 76, DecemberJanuary. Online, available: [Accessed 14 July 2011].

SIEVX Survivor Accounts. 2002. Site established and maintained by M. Hutton. Online, available: [Accessed 19 November 2011].

Spivak, G. C. 1976, 'Translator's Introduction, ' in Of Grammatology, J. Derrida. John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore: ixlxxxvii.

Svich, C. 2003, 'Moiss Kaufman: Reconstructing History Through Theatre"An Interview, ' Contemporary Theatre Review, vol. 13, no. 3: 6772."

'Terms of Reference.' 2002, Select Committee for an Inquiry into a Certain Maritime Incident. Online, available: [Accessed 24 July 2010].

Thompson, J., & Schechner, R. 2004, 'Why Social Theatre"?' The Drama Review, vol. 48, no. 3: 1116."

Trezise, B. 2004, 'Version 1.0 Shares the Shame, ' RealTime, no. 61, JuneJuly. Online, available: [Accessed 14 January 2012].

Trioli, V. 2001, Transcript of the Hon. Peter Reith MP. Radio Interview with Virginia Trioli, Melbourne Radio 3AK, 10 October. Online, available: [Accessed 24 July 2010].

UNHCR. 2012, 'Asylum Claims in Industrialized Countries up Sharply in 2011, ' 27 March. Online, available: [Accessed 3 January 2013].

United Nations Human Development Report. 2009, Online, available: [Accessed 4 July 2010].

version 1.0. 2004a, CMI (A Certain Maritime Incident). A Performance Devised from Transcripts of the 'Children Overboard' Senate Inquiry. Performance Text.

version 1.0 2004b, CMI (A Certain Maritime Incident). DVD.

version 1.0. 2012, Remixing Politics: 3 Documentary Theatre Works (CMI (A Certain Maritime Incident)/The Wages of Spi /Deeply Offensive and Utterly Untrue). Currency Press, Sydney.

'version1.0: Innovative Political Performance.' 2012, Online, available: [Accesssed 6 October 2009].

Waldenfels, B. 1998, Grenzen der Normalisierung. Studien zur Phmenologie des Fremden 2. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main.

Wake, C. 2010a, 'Verbatim Theatre Within a Spectrum of Practices, ' in Verbatim. Staging Memory and Community, (ed.) P. Brown. Currency Press, Sydney: 68.

Wake, C. 2010b, 'Caveat Spectator: Juridical, Political and Ontological False Witnessing in CMI (A Certain Maritime Incident), ' Law/Text/Culture, vol. 4, no. 1: 16087.

Webb, J. 2009, 'Sentences from the Archive, ' Performance Paradigm, vol. 5, no. 1. Online, available: [Accessed 20 December 2012].

Weiss, P. 1971, 'Notizen zum dokumentarischen Theater, ' in Rapporte 2. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt am Main: 91104.

Weller, C. 2007, 'Trauma und Melancholie, 'in Moderne Begreifen. Zur Paradoxie eines Sozio-sthetischen Deutungsmusters, (eds) C. Magerski, R. Savage, & C. Weller. Deutscher Universittsverlag, Wiesbaden: 15768.

Williams, D. 2006, 'Political Theatrics in the Fog of War."' Australasian Drama Studies, no. 48, April: 11529."

Young, S. 2009, 'Playing with Documentary Theatre: Aalst" and "Taking Care of Baby."' New Theatre Quarterly, no. 25: 7287."

iek, S. 2002, Welcome to the Desert of the Real: Five Essays on 11 September and Related Dates. Verso, London & New York.