“Cameron rides a different "frontier", her own psychic landscape … material reality and social relations are mutable, charged with desire and imagination”
On Monday 20 October 2014 we lost an exceptionally dear one in our Chamber Made Opera family. Margaret Cameron died at her home on the Bellarine Peninsula, aged 59.
Margaret was Chamber Made Opera's Resident Director between 2010-2013. She directed Chamber Made Opera's very first living room opera, The Itch (2010) and worked on the world's first opera for an iPad, Exile (2010). Her long-time collaboration with former Artistic Director David Young fostered a plethora of new and wildly diverse works, with their absolutely epic work The Minotaur Trilogy - which received its world premiere at the 2012 Melbourne Festival - a particular high point.
Margaret's final solo work, Opera for a small mammal (2013), developed and presented by us in collaboration with Bell Shakespeare's Minds Eye and La Mama, has been described as:
'...the culmination of a life’s work by one of Australia’s most important theatre artists... With a linguistic and intellectual richness that is rare on our stages, her performance was redolent with wit, sorrow and sensual passion. Small, but perfectly formed.' Alison Croggon, THE MONTHLY.
Her website, www.artartmargaretcameron.com, has a detailed biography of her long, international career and archives many of her lauded works.
She was brave, transcendental and uncompromising. A Total Artist.
Vale dear M.
Thompson, Writings On Dance
Margaret Cameron was a Melbourne based performance poet, director and teacher. Receiving diverse commissions in theatre and cross art form collaborations, she created contemporary performance that was informed by enduring collaborative exchange. Her arts praxis was regularly affirmed, notably by the Australia Council for the Arts Theatre Fellowship in 2004 and most recently The Ross E Trust Award for Script Development 2012.
Margaret's interview for the Chamber Made Opera 25 Years Project can be seen here
Chamber Made Opera projects:
Resident Director 2010-2013
Opera for a small mammal >> Writer, Performer, Director (2013)
The Minotaur Trilogy >> Co-Creator (2012)
Minotaur The Island >> Librettist & Director (2011)
The Itch >> Director (2010)
Target >> Dramaturgist (2010)
Exile >> Director (2010)
Margaret Cameron, Poet of Knowledge and Melancholy
20 January 1955—20 October 2014
By DAVID YOUNG
As published in The Age, Thursday 20 November 2014
Margaret Cameron, creator of groundbreaking solo performance works including the acclaimed “Knowledge and Melancholy”, and one of Australia’s most respected theatre practitioners, died on October 20th at her home on the Bellarine. She was aged 59.
Margaret was also an influential teacher, dramaturg and director, best known for taking her perception of the everyday as inspiration for her theatrical solo works. Yet perhaps what best characterises her 35-year artistic output is her philosophically poetic writing which “does what it says and says what it does”.
Ever charismatic, Margaret insisted she was “not a very comfortable actress.” On stage this seemed not to matter, and her performances in the 1980s—directed by the likes of Jenny Kemp, Rex Crampthorn and Steven Berkoff—enamoured her to audiences and critics alike. She immersed herself in Grotowski-style theatre experiments, travelled to Bali and Berlin, and forged alliances with all manner of artists, notably Hellen Sky who became a lifelong friend.
A major influence was American choreographer Deborah Hay to whom she was introduced by dancer and Alexander Technique teacher, Jane Refshauge. To Hay’s proposition “The perception is the dance”, Margaret responded: “To audience is a verb”, thus beginning a perceptual practice which she applied to everything she did.
Margaret received prestigious awards and grants throughout her career, including Theatre and Literature Fellowships from the Australia Council for the Arts. Almost all her work was first “audienced” at La Mama Theatre under the care of its artistic director Liz Jones. She performed interstate, and abroad in Denmark’s Odin Theatre, Barcelona (where she performed “the proscenium” in Spanish) and Aberystwyth, Wales, with Jill Greenhalph.
She described herself as a “working artist”, and often remarked on the extraordinary privilege of “making a life in art”. Around her own work, she mentored scores of artists—such as actor Christopher Brown, singer Anna Liebzeit and writer Willoh S. Weiland—, dramaturged My Darling Patricia, directed Dawn Albinger’s solo “Heroin(e)”, conducted workshops at the Body Voice Centre with John Howard and the late Helen Sharp, and lectured at Victoria University for thirty years, profoundly influencing a generation of performers, theatre-makers, musicians and slam-poets.
Born in 1955 in suburban Burwood to Lorna and Thomas Cameron, she grew up opposite the local Catholic church under considerable economic hardship. Margaret was the youngest of eight, and in the busy household much of her nurturing was left to her sisters with whom she retained a special bond throughout her life. After attending school and private elocution lessons, Margaret initially enrolled in Art and Craft at the Melbourne Teachers’ College, but was saved by Lindy Davies who ran the Drama school. Upon graduating, she moved to Sydney to seek her fortune as an actress.
During this period she was directed in “Ulrike Meinhof Sings” by actor Nico Lathouris. They fell in love and had a child, Yani. After their relationship ended, with help from a single mother’s no-interest loan, Margaret purchased a house found by her brother Brian in Indented Head, a fishing townlet 90 minutes from Melbourne. Later renovated by sometime partner Michael Hutchison and painted a searing parakeet orange, the house became filled with memorable gatherings and treasures from virtuosic op-shop expeditions.
Margaret and I met during 2002 and in a dozen years we created some of the strangest and most particular works in our respective oeuvres. Highlights include “A Quarreling Pair” based on the Jane Bowles puppet play for the arts company Aphids which played in Melbourne, Sydney, New York (at the original La Mama) and Rome. One of our last and dearest creations was “The Minotaur Trilogy”, a three-hour epic for Chamber Made Opera.
Our many collaborations, and close friendship, played an important role in Margaret’s deeply creative associations with artists including writer Cynthia Troup (whose work “Care Instructions” Margaret also directed), actor Caroline Lee, puppeteer/director Sarah Kriegler, sound designer Jethro Woodward, soprano Deborah Kayser, artist Rosemary Joy, filmmaker Peter Humble and innumerable others.
In January 2013 Margaret was rushed to Emergency with what turned out to be cancer, but underwent a partial recovery that enabled her to premiere “Opera for a small mammal”. The Monthly described her final tour-de-force appearance as “the culmination of a life’s work by one of Australia’s most important theatre artists.” In the same year, she completed her PhD, “I Shudder To Think”, preparing it for publication by Ladyfinger Press.
In her last months, ravaged by complications arising from multiple surgery, Margaret wrote "Lay Me Out," a 49-stanza poem that seemed intended as her adieu to family and friends, to her audience and to herself. Written between rounds of chemotherapy, with one stanza for each day of the Tibetan Bardo, it is filled with bursts of love, fear, beauty and a singular awareness that her death was near.
“For I choose innocence
As the first, second and third pages
To ride this bed to heaven
I choose to know the world through feeling
And its brilliance, light, and a sense of wit, of witness too
Releasing words that kill the dead and wake the living
Words with wings”
Margaret’s ashes are buried in Portarlington Cemetery, looking across the bay towards Melbourne. She is survived by her son Yani (aged 30), mother Lorna (aged 100), brothers Garth and Michael, and sisters Lian, Frances, Marie and Helen.