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

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