Directed by Suzie Conte and Jenny Crabb
What would you do if you came across the decaying ruins of a dream while wandering in the bush one day? If you found the rotting wooden remains of a strange structure seemingly away from anything else? For two Perth directors the answer was simple: find out the history of such a place and tell that fascinating history to others. This is a rather simply presented documentary following a conventional four act structure, that underlies the importance of this film as a historical document. Through the extraordinary work of Suzie Conte and Jenny Crabb we are given a forgotten slice of Perth history, and the rather extraordinary tale of the dreamer behind it.
John Joseph Jones is just one of those dreamers the world was lucky to have – well perhaps less so if you were a creditor, but for the rest of us he was one of those people that made the place interesting. An immigrant from England, he came upon the idea of creating a natural amphitheatre in the bushland of Mundaring. Initially envisaged as a place for cultural performances, financial problems meant that for a brief period of time during the ‘70s the Parkerville Amphitheatre (or the Seddon Vincent Memorial Theatre for Australian Playwrights, to give its proper title) became a haven for rock concerts, and earned the nickname of WA’s Woodstock.
Constructed through painstaking work, Sets, Bugs And Rock ‘n Roll tells the story of the Parkerville amphitheatre through a collection of photos, newspaper clippings, posters, a fortuitously discovered ABC piece from the period, and copious amounts of interviews with family, promoters, actors and band members. The result is an exhaustive coverage of a strange tale that has all the elements of great fiction.
Through Parkerville we see what happens when one man’s obsession comes up again council bureaucracy, and when grand ideas of artistic merit come up against the rather conservative public attitudes of Perth in the ‘60s and ‘70s. We also see what can be achieved with these lofty ambitions. The natural amphitheatre allowed an almost filmic quality to its productions. After all, where else could horses be led onto a stage, or have a raft float down a river winding through the set? Yet it was the concerts that earned the venue its infamy with the Perth press and its cult status amongst the punters. Acts such as John Farnham, Cold Chisel, Dave Hole and Matt Taylor all cut their teeth there, and we are lucky to hear some of the wilder and more amusing tales surrounding these concerts.
Parkerville: Sets, Bugs And Rock ‘n Roll gives us a window back in time to an extraordinary era of Perth music, and a venue that was ahead of its time. Illuminating, and surprisingly funny this is a documentary well worth the watch, just to discover a piece of local history that few of us are familiar with, but really should be.
Parkerville: Sets, Bugs And Rock n’ Roll screens as part of the Revelation Perth International Film Festival. For tickets and session times, go to revelationfilmfest.org.