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Our History

Pongjit and Richard first collaborated in 1995 as part of the Asian touring theatre project Big Wind. Pongjit had already been working with the Makhampom Theatre Group in Thailand for 6 years and Richard with the Melbourne-based physical theatre and percussion ensemble, Gonghouse. After stints living and working together in Thailand and Australia, they established the Makhampom Art Space in northern Thailand in 2004, as a theatre community and hub for applied theatre and social enterprise initiatives. Some of the significant programs over the following 12 years included:

  • designing the Makhampom Art Space as the base for one of Thailand's first social enterprise initiatives;

  • the partnership with the Pang Daeng Nok stateless dara'ang community in Chiang Dao spanning youth theatre, social enterprise, ethical tourism, community organising, social circus, non-formal education, and national campaigning on ethnic rights;

  • the Makhampom Study Tour, a 3-4-week long intensive immersive training in community and transformative theatre in Chiang Dao for international participants, numbering over 300 spanning the 20-years of the program, and marked by a partnership with Charles Sturt University's Theatre Media course;

  • the Art of Peace project encompassing transformative theatre workshops in conflict situations (Myanmar, refugee camps, southern Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Pacifica communities), touring performances, and a training manual;

  • the Dialogue Theatre project, involving the devising of the methodology with the Makhampom ensemble, national and international Dialogue Theatre performances,  

Dialogue Theatre works in Thailand addressing political conflict and military repression led to a crackdown by the Thai regime on Makhampom's practice, fast-tracking Pongjit and Richard's return to Australia in 2015. Free Theatre was formed to share this knowledge from Thailand and the Asia-Pacific, with a focus on transferring the Dialogue Theatre practice into marginalised community contexts in Melbourne and beyond. 

 

A Pictorial History

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