Airport Conversations

‘Airport Conversations’. A eulogy. Shattered beings are best represented through bits and pieces. Maria Rilke We deal daily with others lives. We pick up a pair of runners or an electronic device; we imagine it in our life. We buy it. It’s ours. We don’t need to know where it’s from.

Clientby Merfyn Owen

Airport Conversations is an innovative theatre production that seeks to integrate a range of modes and technologies to create a new form for expressing the ideas it explores; namely the tensions between distance and proximity, connection and disconnection, in the context of a ‘globalised’ world.

Airport Conversations employs digital-image, screen, moving and still image, theatre, sound and music composition, lighting design, stage design, dialogue, monologue, verbatim account, physical montage and written signage to create an integrated production. For the artists involved the aim and challenge is to create a sophisticated synthesis of theatrical technologies and techniques to push the boundaries of the form into new expressive territory in which no form prevails.

At the core of the work is a relationship between two senior Western businessmen. The men maintain a kind of fractured dialogue with each other by means of digital media as they transit through airports on separate routes to Bangkok. Their journeys and their relationship are disrupted by the various inconveniences that accompany air travel, by the sometimes erratic and unreliable character of electronic communications, and most significantly by the ambiguous presence of Pakpao, a young Thai woman, who intrudes upon their consciousness with increasing persistence. The 1993 Kader Toy Factory fire ( an industrial tragedy universally cited as the greatest industrial tragedy of our time) – how Pakpao came to work there, operating a sewing machine, and how she died there, as well as the connections the two businessmen had with the factory – stands as an emblematic event within the play.

The thematic key that binds the piece together has to do with the operation of our sense of personal responsibility in a globalised world: how does our moral/ethical sense of personal accountability operate in a social setting where we are distanced from, or insulated from, the consequences of our actions?


The project is paced to develop over three years. To date it has benefited from four creative developments; Dunedin 2010, Melbourne 2011, Dunedin 2011, Bangkok 2012, with a fifth (artists in residency) pending at Bundanon NSW in Decenber 2012 to be  followed immediately by  four showings for stakeholders and peers at Arts House Melbourne.

Key Artists:

Airport Conversations is collaboration between a group of Australian and New Zealand theatre artists.

Jethro Woodward                   Sound design / Composer                   Australia

Michael Carmody                   Film maker                                          Australia

HaiHa Le                                Performer/Text devisor                       Australia

Joel Zika                                  Print & New Media Artist                  Australia

Simon O’Connor                     Performer / Text devisor                     New Zealand

Richard Huber                        Director / Text devisor                        New Zealand

Martyn Roberts                       Designer / Lighting Designer              New Zealand

Merfyn Owen                         Performer / Text devisor                     Australia

We would like to gratefully acknowledge the film/graphics and conceptual work of Rhian Hinkley, who  contributed to the Melbourne June 2011, second workshop and showings.