We All Know What’s Happening at Campbelltown Arts Centre

October 19th 2018

We All Know What’s Happening, photos: Bryony Jackson

What do you get when you blend together a school musical, a history lesson and a political probe? We All Know What’s Happening is a new work by Samara Hersch and Lara Thoms focusing in on people that are too young to vote, as they confront power, political complacency, children’s rights and their ominous future.

Lara and Samara have collaborated with seven young people in response to Australia’s ongoing relationship with Nauru. Set against a backdrop of handmade costumes and colonialism, this is an absurd, true story about Leonardo da Vinci, seagull poo, the Pacific and children in detention.

We chatted to Lara Thoms to see what they’ve got instore for us at the Sydney premier of the theatre piece at Campbelltown Art Centre.

Natasha Atkins: There are a lot of exciting elements in the show – Leonardo da Vinci, children in detention, musical numbers – but what is the essence of ‘We All Know What’s Happening’?

Lara Thoms: The essence is Australia’s ongoing colonial relationship with Nauru. In terms of the musical Australia convinced Nauru to invest the equivalent of several million dollars in the 90s in a musical about the Leonardo DaVinci falling in love with the Mona Lisa – and lost their money. This is one of the more absurd examples of Australia placing itself in the middle of this tiny country with negative repercussions.

NA: What do you think live performance brings to tackling topics like colonialism and detention in Australia?

LT: This live performance is made with 7 young Australians who are in collaboration with 7 young people currently trapped on Nauru. A live performance demands attention in a way that video or online content doesn’t. It asks you to sit in the dark with with these ideas and share this experience with those in the room. It is particularly visceral hearing young people talk about these issues affecting people their own age. Apparently 60% of Australians are unaware there are children in offshore detention.

NA: Utilising tropes of low budget theatre, used in We All Know What’s Happening, has been quite popular in main stream theatre, with shows like ‘The Play that Goes Wrong’ having wide success. What is it about these quintessential low budget shows that makes them a compelling medium for story-telling?

LT: I’m not familiar with ‘The Play that goes Wrong’ but we begin with the aesthetic of a school show with handmade bold props and colourful lighting design to give the sense of a fairly childlike version of history, which is in sharp contrast with the last part of the show. Overall the design is very considered by the team of award winning sound, set and lighting designers who have vast experience in contemporary performance and have worked with us to make a nuanced, complex production.

We All Know What’s Happening, photos: Bryony Jackson

NA: We All Know What’s Happening features young performers under the age of 18 years of age, with most shows as school matinees. How important do you think it is for young people to have a political voice?

LT: Extremely important, even more so when policies affect people their age. Some of our cast created their own organisation called Children for Children and created a campaign where they voluntarily sit in their own school detentions to raise awareness for young people in detention. They are an inspiring bunch and I’m glad other young people will get to hear from them.

NA: How did you feel when you won the Best Contemporary and Experimental performance at 2018s Green Room Awards?

LT: The cast of 7 kids had just come back from a hot chip break as our award was announced last in the night and we were all shocked and thrilled.

We All Know What’s Happening, photos: Bryony Jackson

NA: How can young people, and creatives, continue to create meaningful political performances in Australia?

LT: In NSW there are great organisations like Shopfront, PACT and PYT that support young people to make their own work about issues that are important to them. Asking for dramaturgical support from those already making this kind of work can be really helpful. Doing research and getting consultants from the communities that political policies affect is also important.

NT: Do you have any other exciting projects coming up?

LT: I am personally about to premiere a work in Melbourne in collaboration with an ex-funeral director that interrogates the death industry. Our Pianist Grace has an event for Melbourne Music week, and Romanie our set designer has designed the show Trustees at the Malthouse. In Sydney, Art-wise I would recommend checking out Liveworks, particularly Return to Escape from Woomera. There is also a campaign to get kids off Nauru projected onto the Opera house.


WHAT: We All Know What’s Happening
WHERE: Campbelltown Arts Centre
WHEN: 1:30pm, Saturday 20 October
HOW MUCH: $15 ($10 conc), tickets here


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