‘An astonishing collaborative work that leaps into the deeper reality of justice… like many of those in the room I could have stayed in this realm for many more hours. It will stay with me for much longer.’ — Realtime Arts
The Chat is a critically acclaimed performance set in a utopian parole system. It is an experimental work where the audience play judge, those with lived experience of the criminal justice system are the experts, and the idea of ‘the artist’ is both celebrated and mocked.
Ignited by KIN creative director James Brennan’s experience working as a parole officer in Sydney’s Long Bay Gaol, the work was developed in a series of workshops run for convicted men and women. Offering skills development in performance, critical thinking and communication, the workshops introduced people with lived experience of the criminal justice system to the artistic process, and provided opportunities to develop The Chat collaboratively.
The resulting work is a collaboration between Brennan, renowned writer-performer David Woods (of award winning cult comic duo Ridiculusmus), performance maker and choreographer Ashley Dyer, and ex-offenders and performers John Tjepkema, Nick Maltzahn, Arthur Bolkas and Tai Luke. On stage, The Chat places a particular focus on the interpersonal relationships between parole officers and parolees, and provides both an opportunity to critically engage the parole system while pursuing real moments of revelation and reflection for all involved.
First performed at La Boite Theatre Brisbane in 2016, it went on to sold-out seasons at Arts House, Melbourne, 2017, and The Sydney Festival, 2019. Beyond the theatre, The Chat began a sustained inquiry into the culture and practices that shape the parolee–parole officer relationship examined in collaboration with leading criminologist Dr. Anna Eriksson, at Monash University.
For more information, see the publication To Meet Yourself: Performing the Parole in The Chat and video documentation here