Workers, United, Will Party

Article that includes information about Mark performing in We Build This City.

Author: Harbant Gill, The Age.

Date: 3 May 2006.

Original URL: N/A.


Article Text

We build this city not on rock and roll but muscle, sweat and gags, theatre creator Donna Jackson says.

“Mark Seymour hates that song,” she says of Starship’s 1985 chart-topped We Built This City, which happens to be the title of a new show for which ex-Hunters and Collectors Seymour has composed the music.

Jackson’s creation, involving heavy machinery, real builders, industrial percussion, a rock band and a 40-strong choir, is the antithesis of the “too light, too fluffy” song.

“No, the song is not any part of the show,” she says.

“The building industry use ‘We Built This City’ as one of their mottos and I don’t know whether the unions are aware that it was a very unfortunate song.

“We are hoping that after this show people will forget that song.”

Jackson and the Melbourne Workers Theatre have been rehearsing since September to take audiences on a journey through the heart of Scienceworks.

“The show is industrial, big-scale Tonka toys, heavy metal,” says Jackson, who did a crash course in industry-speak to get the frontend loaders, excavators and cranes she needed.

“I have been looking for an excavator that looks happy, so it’s funny when I talk to people who work in demolition,” she says. “I say ‘have you got a happy excavator?’ and they want to know how many tonnes it is.

“I had to stop asking for a happy one, a sad one or a naughty-looking one and get on the internet and learn the actual names. I was trying to cast characters and they were trying to work out how much weight.”

Jackson, known for large-scale theatre projects, says it was not hard to lure riggers, crane drivers, sparkies and carpenters to the show.

“People are going out of their way because it’s 150 years since the eight-hour day,” she says.

“People who are committed to unions and think ‘Well, 150 years ago these people marched down the street, downed tools and we won the eight-hour day’. They feel strongly that it’s important to mark the win.”

The 75-minute show begins with a humorous site induction, which Jackson wrote after going to one.

“We then take people across the oval and down into the boiler room at Scienceworks, which is a fantastic building build more than 100 years ago,” she says.

“That’s why we wanted to place it on this site, because of the beautiful skill of the builders.

“In that building people tell short, funny stories about being involved in the building industry.”

There’s also a moving story of the West Gate Bridge collapse in 1970.
“Then we go into the big engine room,” she says. “We place the stage at one end and we have the engines at either side. The trade union choir, they are up on those engines, so it’s a fantastic set.”

A pantomime is performed with a crane, an excavator, a fronend loader, a smaller crane and a couple of skid steer sleights.

“This city is built on a lot of sweat and labour of people who worked pretty long hours in the building industry,” Jackson says.

“The other thing is a particular sense of humour. So I’d say it’s built on sweat, muscle and a few gags.”

(Picture) Donna Jackson and Mark Seymour. Picture: Ellen Smith.

We Built This City
Where: Scienceworks, 2 Booker St, Spotswood, today-May 6
Tickets: $12-$22
Bookings: 9639 0096 or