standing bird: Interview with Sally Richardson

Posted by Morgan Leek, January 18th, 2012

Sally Richardson is one of those all-round amazing ladies. She writes and directs her own projects, produces large-scale arts events and recieves countless awards for her efforts, including a 2009 Helpmann for Best Presentation for Children for The PromiseThis week I talked to Sally about her new work standing bird, a dance/theatre/film performance happening at PICA as part of The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights and Fringe World. Performed by Jacqui Claus, standing bird explores a woman’s encounter with the Australian landscape – an experience of submersion, dislocation, isolation and transformation.

standing bird

Pictured: Jacqui Claus, rehearsal for standing bird (2012) Photo: Ashley de Prazer

Sally Richardson (SR) and Sarah Rowbottam (Sarah)

Sarah. First up, briefly tell me about yourself.
SR. I am a mother, an artist, and a creative arts worker and facilitator. I was born in Melbourne but grew up in WA. My creative practice is based in WA but I have worked regularly in the performing arts across Australia since 1993. I am passionate about exploring who we are and our relationship to this place and space. What is the story we wish to tell, and the various ways we can tell it.

Sarah. What is the story behind creating standing bird?
The story or narrative for the work is simple. It follows a woman’s journey through the Australian landscape from the sea into the interior, the heart – It is a journey of the self. These environments are territories of the emotions and represent aspects of her life, fragments of experiences, punctuated by ‘abruptions’ or crisis that instigate metamorphosis and transformation. Visibly she moves from a contemporary urban superficial image of a standing bird, into the empowered animal that is the timeless spirit bird, her self.

The work is in four distinct and discreet sections; Shipwrecked, Beach, Swamp & Bird – they are the movements of a score, chapters in a book or single portraits, if you like. The spaces in between are the practical and perfunctory set up preparations made visible to the audience. We move lights, equipment and the performer changes costume, giving the audience the opportunity to engage both with the ‘character’  and the authentic construction of the performance.

This project has been in evolution for several years, and we have undertaken a number of developments exploring key themes, narratives, and forms to find the synthesis that represents the spartan and essentialist version that has become the current standing bird.

These developments have explored multiple physical languages working with different forms of choreographic practice and methodology, theatre and performance making (inc puppetry), live music, sound and vision design. (early workshop footage can be viewed on you tube)


Pictured: Shona Erskine, Eliza (2009) Photo: Ashley de Prazer

Over several years we produced and presented several short dance films (Eliza and Standing Bird) and a short dance work (Standing Bird choreographed and performed by Paea Leach) featured as part of Strut’s shortcuts season in 2010. (also on You tube)

The ‘we’ has involved a number of collaborators over this period and these include: Shona Erskine, Paea Leach, Jacob Lehrer, Philip Mitchell, Chrissie Parrott, with Kingsley Reeve, Danielle Micich, Ashley de Prazer continuing throughout the project alongside newer standing bird co-creators Humphrey Bower, Fiona Bruce, Kyle Morrison & Mike Nanning.

Fiona de Garis has been our producer since the projects inception. She is the definition of rock.

Sarah. You have been rehearsing standing bird intensively since Christmas. Take us through one of your favourite rehearsal days thus far.
SR. That’s tricky – each day brings new discoveries, un-coveries, sudden leaps in understanding and realisation. So no single day is more ‘stand out ‘than any other.

Sarah. What do you hope an audience member will take away from standing bird?
SR. To have undertaken a rich emotional and physical journey with the performer that is beautiful, powerful, moving and meaningful. To have experienced a visceral and authentic connection with the performer and her story.

standing bird rehearsals

Pictured: Jacqui Claus, rehearsal for standing bird (2012) Photo: Sally Richardson
Sarah. For standing bird you are working with one of my favourite Perth dancers Jacqui Claus. Why did you choose to collaborate with Jacqui?
SR. I have watched and enjoyed Jacqui’s work over a number of years here in WA, and particularly enjoyed her powerful dynamism and compelling physicality as a performer. I wanted to see her have the opportunity to extend her emotional and physical range. To find new layers,  a subtlely within the largesse and expansiveness she already offers an audience.

Not just any performer has the physical range, nor can sustain the emotional depth that is required in a full length solo work. Jacqui is ready for a work that demands a great deal of her, more than she has done before.

Sarah. Performing a full length solo dance work seems like a rare opportunity in Perth. What is special about making solo work?
It offers a unique performer and audience relationship. It is intimate, honest and revealing as solo work takes us to core of the human experience of self. It its creation it is intense, demanding, and detailed work.

The relationship between you and the artist is at the core of the work, so there needs to be honest open communication, and genuine collaboration. There is a dance between us as we make the work together. As I said previously it requires an intelligent, committed artist who has a dynamic performance range and stamina.

standing bird rehearsal

Pictured: Jacqui Claus, rehearsal for standing bird (2012) Photo: Sally Richardson

Sarah. standing bird is co-created by Danielle Micich, Ashley de Prazer, Jacqui Claus and yourself. How do you negotiate making work when there are so many equal voices? How do you achieve a clear articulation of your combined vision?
In coming in to the process for this presentation of standing bird.. I spent focused time by myself, and then in one on one conversation with a dramaturg I trust.

I feel I came into the rehearsal stage of the project with clear objectives and story boards about what I wanted to explore and potentially achieve. How this is delivered shifts and alters inevitably through the co-creative process – but ultimately I am not asking of my co-creators to tell me what the work is about. So we are working together to explore, develop and realise a core vision. That I have generated.

We also have previous history of collaboration, with some of the team over many years, so there is an inherent trust and already a proven ability to work together.

Sarah. How do you feel about self-funded work?
SR. That it is inevitable at times. Positive – I do get to do it the way I want to. Work at my own pace, in my own way. I don’t have to aquit the production! It puts all kinds of obstacles (and limitations) in place, which can be good (and not so good) You pull a lot of favours – (special thanks to Yirra Yaakin). It has felt really rewarding that this talented and experienced group of artists believe in my work to give of their time (and money) to create this together

Sarah. What advice would you give to young aspiring artist looking to develop their craft?
DO it – don’t wait to be asked (or funded). Practice- really means that. GO and see work, all kinds. Ask people to help you (support, advice, whatever) – they can only say no and most times they don’t

Sarah. What’s the most exciting thing that has happened to you in your career?
Lots on the list – touring your work to major festivals, and internationally, but really? The present moment – Right NOW feels really good – to be in a studio with great people making stuff – nothing better


standing bird
7 – 10 & 12 Feb 2012
PICA Performance Space
All shows 9.30pm
Tickets: $30*

*Save $5 and book early with The Blue Room Theatre  (08) 9227 7005 or book online

Presented by The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights and Sally Richardson in association with PICA
Created by
 Sally Richardson, Danielle Micich, Ashley de Prazer and Jacqui Claus
with contributions from Paea Leach and Shona Erskine
Sound: Kingsley Reeve with Kyle Morrison
Dramaturgy: Humphrey Bower
Lighting: Mike Nanning
Costume: Fiona Bruce
Producer: Performing Lines WA

PROXIMITY: Interview with Renae Coles, creator of THE UNION

Posted by Morgan Leek, January 12th, 2012

It’s a brand new year and a brand new beginning for a rather unique and intimate venture in Perth. Proximity, Australia’s first micro-festival of one-on-one art, is set to take over The Blue Room  in Jan/ Feb 2012 during Fringe World and The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights. Forget the crowds and whether you are seated in A or F row. Proximity = a performance made just for you.

Proximity artist Renae Coles gives us the low-down on this fascinating genre of performance custom-made for an audience of one and tells us about her latest work THE UNION,  a live-art performance for those who have suffered a small injustice and have a minuscule axe to grind.

Untitled (PICA Residency) Renae Coles

Words: Renae Coles (RC) and Performing Lines WA (PLWA)

PLWA. First up, briefly tell me about yourself.

RC. I grew up in both Perth and Albany, studied at ECU and am currently working on three projects for FRINGE WORLD. In addition to THE UNION for Proximity, I’m co-curating an exhibition calledThe Conservatorium and performing with my collective SPATULA. I also manage PICA’s Front of House affairs and at the moment am really enjoying embroidery and bicycle riding!

PLWA. What is it like being a part-time artist / part-time arts administrator?

RC. It’s a constant negotiation, of both time and of two entirely different head spaces. I’ve found the admin side of my work has unlocked an organisational side of myself that I didn’t know existed- this has been invaluable in better organising my own practice.

PLWA. Your latest work THE UNION is an interesting amalgamation of your ‘two lives’. How has your work as an administrator influenced your practice and vice versa.

RC. I think I’ve become a little enamoured with the interpersonal exchange and care systems of customer service. A large part of THE UNION has been based on both the inter-industry universality of customer service systems and the bitter rage we’ve all experience when these systems fail us.

PLWA. It’s two weeks before your first performance of THE UNION in Proximity. What are you currently working on to finish the work?

RC. I’m currently figuring out formulas for punk songs- somewhat of a hilarious contradiction I know!

PLWA. What is special about one-on-one theatre for you?

There’s something a little more real about it than a performance with a larger audience. There’s not much room for a fourth wall. The two people, audience and performer, can’t help but to acknowledge each other and to initiate some sort of exchange with this acknowledgement.

PLWA. What can an audience member expect to take away from your work?

RC. Hopefully a few laughs and a wandering sense of curiosity and excitement as to where their, perhaps unexpected, contribution to this project will end up.

PLWA. I love the honesty of your work and how there is a follow up with your audience or “union” members small injustice. Can you tell me a bit about this?

RC. For most very small injustices there is most often no hope for any resolution. THE UNION exists to offer that resolution in the form of a punk song. After interviewing my audience (or potential union) member, my very talented senior union members will use their rattling instruments and wailing accusations to create a punk song directed at my audience member’s very small oppressors. These songs will be posted on THE UNION’s website (currently being constructed) and available for download.

PLWA. How do you feel about self-funded work?

RC. I think there will always be the hint of revolution in self-funded activity. The idea that something is so important that you will give your own money and time to see it happen is dynamic and the beginning of a potential that operates outside of most self-serving systems.

4-Person 3-Wheeled Macadamia Nut Processing Vehicle-Osbourne Park to Perth (SPATULA), 2011

PLWA. What advice would you give to young aspiring artist looking to develop their craft?

RC. Hmm… that’s hard for me to answer as I think I AM a young aspiring artist looking to develop my craft! With that in mind though my advice would be: People are kind- ask for collaboration, advice, opinions and assistance and in my experience, people will be happy to be involved. The other thing I’ve learned is to keep applying for things you think are out of your reach- soon enough something unexpected will happen.

PLWA. What’s the most exciting thing that has happened to you in your career?

RC. I recently discovered that I was selected for the 2012 JUMP Mentoring Program- this is hugely exciting for me. I will be undertaking a mentorship with playground designer Andrew Reedy, learning how to make climbable sculptures for public spaces!

Check out THE UNION during Proximity (Program C)
Dates: Sun 29 Jan, Sun 5 Feb, Sun 12 Feb, Sun 19 Feb 2012
Times: 3pm, 4pm, 5pm
Venue: The Blue Room Theatre, 53 James St, Northbridge WA
Tickets: $25 (4 shows in 1 hour) $66 (12 shows in 3 hours)
Book online: Phone: 9227 7005 In Person: The Blue Room Theatre

Proximity Festival  also introduces performances by 11 other independent West Australian artists, including works by Proximity Co-curators James Berlyn and Sarah Rowbottam.  James is a Performing Lines WA core artist.  Sarah, like Renae,  juggles her own artistic practice with her part-time work in arts management as our Associate Producer.

Download the Proximity Program.