Even Orchestra

An artistic group I admired a lot in the 1980s was Even Orchestra. They were a bit older than me, but it seemed like decades at the time. They were just really intrepid, offbeat and brilliant at a time when I was totally unproductive and insecure. The members  I knew were John Evan (Hobart) Hughes, Bruce Currie and Polly Watkins.

I wanted to have Even Orchestra in TMAC as an act of homage because they were integral to my attiude towards Darlinghurst as a heroic place, albeit a bit vacant and ominous at night. They lived in the Woolloomooloo squats on Palmer Street. I name-check John and Bruce exiting Bill and Tony’s café (p.644) and later describe a scene from their short film, “Crust” (p.848). TBH it was just too amazing to be reduced to text.

Click and watch “Crust.”

Polly was my neighbor at Royal Court in 1986-7. She and Lucy Guerin welcome O to her new apartment in Chapter 10 (p.861). This short scene was unnecessary from a plot perspective. It was inspired by their kindness when I lived in Flat Ten. Lucy was a dancer who went onto become a famous choreographer in Melbourne. Polly went back to Brisbane for a while then she moved to Melbourne where she became a successful film-maker. I still see John Hughes from time to time in Sydney. We always shared something special because he did time in Punchbowl as a kid, which is near Campsie where I grew up.

Here’s a few links to archival material:

Crust (ca. 5 min.) / story and direction, John E. Hughes; dialogue written and performed by John Hughes, Bruce Currie; camera, John Hughes; sound, the Even Orchestra (Bruce Currie, Paul Livingston, Polly Watkins, John Evan Hughes); recorded at Trackdown; mixed by Barry Wolifson. Performed by the Even Orchestra: Bruce Currie, John Evan Hughes, Paul Livingston, Polly Watkins.

Researchworks at the New York Public Library has some good information.

There is a group biography in the excellent Australian Animation: An International History by Dan Torre and Lienors Torre.

Lastly, here is a poster for one of their performances. I am pretty sure that the venue at 159 Upper Forbes Street was the address of their squat. It was the kitchen set for “Crust” as well as being used in TMAC.