Interview: Cicada at Chrissie Parrott Arts Maylands

Posted by Fiona de Garis, October 26th, 2012

Since making the decision to convert a Maylands smash repair shop into a multi-purpose arts space, Chrissie Parrott and Jonathan Mustard have run a handful of exhibitions and experimental music nights showcasing some of Perth’s greatest talents. Predominantly known for making highly theatrical performances, next month marks the duo’s first chance to experiment within the confines of Chrissie Parrott Arts space with the creation of a new site-specific work CICADA. Earlier this week I caught up with Chrissie to find out more.

Words: Sarah Rowbottam (SR) and Chrissie Parrott (CP)

Cicada rehearsals

SR.Cicada is the first site-specific work you have made in your new space. How is it going so far?
CP. We have decided to make a three-act evening and create three totally different experiences for the people who come along. I am enjoying this idea because it gives me a compartment – like series of design images and choreographic aesthetics. I am able to focus on one act at a time rather than looking a full evening work… the venue suggests this to me as each area has its own very strong character.

SR.What inspired you to create the work?
CP. The venue had a lot to do with this – at night the space has a very powerful energy. It had a long life as a smash repair workshop … and now in its new incarnation it feels… well, strangely reborn! I also really wanted to explore the use of projected images again after the success of Metadance. There were certain elements that were untapped in that production and here with Cicada, we can work on those without some of the restraints of theatre.

SR. Most of your recent works, mainly The Garden and Reign, have a distinct theatrical flavour, bringing the absurd, the romantic and otherworldly characters to stage. What can we expect from Cicada?
CP. I especially love the sense of the theatrical and other-worldly …this work is different from those other works .. but as it is, when you have been immersed in a world of ideas around certain elements, some of those ideas chase you.  And sometimes one turns around and sees them again and welcomes them along for the new ride.
We have only just started rehearsals, so we will see what emerges.

SR. Cicada continues your long-term collaboration with composer/ musician Jonathan Mustard. Has the sound of a Cicada love song informed the sound score for the work at all?
CP. Ah! yes, we do have a cicada resident in the space and he/she is very vocal, so we will be sending the courting call back at some point of the night. I was recently introduced to a young composer, Kynan Tan, whose sounds will be incorporated into the show with Jon Mustard’s as well as other electronic music and the sounds of a forest  – an eclectic mix! The acoustics are wonderful in the space too, so we are taking full advantage of this.

SR. Cicada features some of Australia’s most renowned performers – James O’Hara, Kynan Hughes, Floeur Alder, Jacqui Claus, Laura Boynes, Katya Shevtsov, Heather McLachlan, Kynan Tan and Rhiannon Newton. How did you manage to get this incredible team together for Cicada?
CP. You know, there are people who you work with for a short time, or people who you have wanted to work with and sometimes you look at the mix and see the similarities and the differences and how they may enhance your ideas. There are so many brilliant performers around … this particular group were people who were available at this time and interested to explore these ideas with me . I feel very privileged to be working with them all.


SR. What are the positives and negatives of self-presenting?
CP. The negatives of self presenting outweigh the positives simply because of the level of extra work and multi tasking involved, especially when you are also making new work so it is imperative that the scheduling and organization is pulled together very early in the process so that we all have a map to follow. Splitting focus can be quite harrowing but I figure that somehow it all feeds into the work in one way or another.
It also requires that everyone has to take full responsibility for the success of the work. The level of support throughout the team is phenomenal! – very solid! though no one can afford to be complacent .
It is a very powerful and energizing style of working. I think the other hard task is trying to spread the word about that these ventures feed directly back to the artists; I mean that the box office is an even split, so it takes a special commitment  to have that responsibility as a performer as well as performing to your absolute utmost. I wouldn’t recommend it as a way to go. These self-produced works have their own personality  and the truth is, that as a director, I cannot expect this to become a permanent way to make work.

SR. As a current gallery owner, what are your thoughts about Perth Galleries, Gallery East and Gallery Dusseldorf closing their doors in the next year?
CP. I have listened carefully to the why’s and what I am hearing is that the particular galleries were created at a time when the directors where at a different place in their careers and lives. It’s no coincidence that they are all closing at the same time, but many new independent galleries are opening. The facts are that the funding needed to make art and invest in art have changed. There certainly are no less people making art, and some of the new art-makers are really making important work too. I am sad for those galleries, but as I say, I believe that the directors have been involved for a big part of their lives and possibly have new projects in work and in life that hey have decided to follow.

SR. What is life like running an independent arts space in Perth right now?
CP. Our gallery is not a traditional gallery. It is a multi-arts venue – a place to share and play and make new work. We are meeting some amazing folks – both artists and visitors to the space.
Often when you make work in the theatre you don’t get a chance to meet your audiences where as when you are in an open gallery space there is often more time to talk about the work and listen to feedback. So far, it is proving extremely satisfying.

1 – 17 November 2013
Chrissie Parrott Arts – 4 Sussex Street, Maylands
Book tickets

Featuring James O’Hara, Kynan Hughes, Floeur Alder, Jacqui Claus, Laura Boynes, Katya Shevtsov, Heather McLachlan, Kynan Tan, Rhiannon Newton
Session times: Preview: 8pm Thurs 1 Nov
Opening Night 8pm Fri 2 Nov, 8pm Sat 3 Nov, 8pm Sun 4 Nov, 8pm Thurs 8 Nov, 8pm Fri 9 Nov, 8pm Sat 10 Nov, 8pm Sun 11 Nov, 8pm Thurs 15 Nov, 8pm Fri 16 Nov, 10pm Fri 16 Nov, 8pm Sat 17 Nov, 10pm Sat 17 November
Seating is limited of per session!