Interview: Kathryn Osborne talks One Night Echo at PICA

Posted by Fiona de Garis, November 6th, 2012

Are 20-somethings so self-consumed they are unable to truly connect with one another? This question is posed in One Night Echo, the latest work by Perth’s theatre dream team The Duck House. The show takes a modern look at the Greek mythological stories of Narcissus and Echo and takes place at a house party at 3am. I caught up with Kat Osborne, Director of the work to find out more…

One Night Echo

Words: Kathryn Osborne (KO) and Sarah Rowbottam (SR)

SR. What is the story behind creating One Night Echo?
KO. One Night Echo is inspired by the intertwining myths of Narcissus, Echo, Pan, Selene and Endymion. We took the characters in these stories to create a new work that explores contemporary narcissism. The show is set at a backyard 20-something birthday party and through the course of the piece, we see that each character has their own set of self absorbed desires that get in the way of forming any true connection with each other. I wanted to collaborate with composer Elliott Hughes on a work and in 2009 we started talking about this idea for this piece. It’s changed a lot since our initial idea and I think what we’ve ended up with is a new work as opposed to an adaptation of the myths; which is the goal. It’s moved into the contemporary quite strongly, but the presence of the live music keeps it rooted in the surreal. I think, at this point in time anyway, that’s a key feature of the type of work I direct.

SR. Keeping with the theme of parties; if you were going to propose a toast for One Night Echo, what would you say?
KO.“A toast! To the infinity of space and the possibilities it holds.”

SR. I read on your blog that Brendan is your “resident research addict”. What’s some of the fascinating insight has he brought into the space?
KO. Brendan is playing Eddie, which is the character based on Endymion. Briefly, Endymion is a mortal who falls in love with Selene (The Moon Goddess) and she puts him in an eternal sleep so that he will be beautiful and immortal forever. The most recent ‘fun fact’ that he told me was that there is a crater on the moon that is named after Endymion. He also researched to make sure that the constellations that are mentioned in the show can all be seen in the southern hemisphere at the same time.

One Night Echo

One Night Echo

One Night Echo

Photos: One Night Echo, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts

SR. What are your thoughts about today’s generation of 20-somethings?
KO. I’m part of today’s generation of 20-somethings and I feel that with any generation there are a few qualities that give us a bad wrap. There is a perception that we are self-obsessed. I’ve heard the phrase iGen popping up of late too. In One Night Echo we are specifically looking at these qualities of narcissism, but even though we are taking these qualities to an extreme, I don’t necessarily believe that we are unable to truly connect with one another. The work is presenting an idea and I’m interested in what the audience have to say about it.

SR. It’s exciting to see you are working with composer and jazz musician Elliott Hughes and a live band. What can we expect from the music?
KO. Live music creates a buzzing energy in the air. I love how the sound fills the space. You can expect music that combines multiple styles and that takes us into the surreal.

SR. What’s the alchemy that occurs during production week that prepares the show for an audience?
KO. I try to get a bit more ruthless at this point. Ideas that seemed good three weeks ago I might kick out the door. The worst thing is watching the show with an audience and wishing you hadn’t let something slide. If it’s not working now, it’s probably not going to work in three days time. Better to try something new. It also keeps the performers on their toes.
I have a love/hate relationship with production week. You have to face things that simple aren’t possible due to time or practical reasons. But the best part is when a room of creative people find a creative solution.

One Night Echo

One Night Echo

One Night Echo

Photos: One Night Echo Development, CIA Studios

SR. What are your pre-show rituals?
KO. Early on, I like to give pep talks to the cast. It pretty much involves me saying 2 – 3 sentences about being confident and energetic and listening to each other. I like to say something simple. Once I’m in the audience I tend to fidget a lot.

SR. One Night Echo marks The Duck House Theatre’s fifth birthday as an independent company. What has been your most memorable moment?
KO. I don’t have a single moment. It’s mostly the sense of drive that hasn’t abandoned me and the need to keep making that stands out. Over the last five years every challenge, failure and success sits in me somewhere. And it has all been vital in my development as an artist. So in a way, it’s all memorable because it effects every choice and action.

SR. What are the positives and negatives of self-presenting?
KO. Positives: it’s all on you. Negatives: it’s all on you.

SR. What is life like being an independent artist in Perth right now?
KO.Things for The Duck House are going well. Five years, nine professional productions at five different venues is a pretty great achievement. Perth has also changed so much in the since 2007 and it’s becoming a more vibrant place to live. I think the only issue in my mind is the lack of venues for theatre artists. But we are making it work with what we have, so I can’t complain too much! The sense of community here between independent artists is fantastic. Our numbers are getting thinner with a lot of people relocating to the eastern states. As a result, those of us still here have become close and are finding more ways to collaborate and keep making.

Watch a short video on One Night Echo by The West Australian

One Night Echo
Party. 3am. Those who remain look for love in the dirt. The Birthday Boy is in a world of his own, absorbed by his own brilliance. The Star laughs at The Nobody who stumbles alone in the moonlight. The Loner watches and waits. An echo fights to be heard amongst the early morning tunes, a scattered cry of sadness drifting through the night. In that blurry time between midnight and dawn, where self interest rules, the party people sparkle as the music plays on.

Season: November 7 – 17, 2012
Tuesday 13th 6.30pm only, plus Saturday 17th 2pm matinee
Tickets $28 Full / $20 Conc / $15 Preview
Tickets through or 9228 6300

Director / Producer: Kathryn Osborne
Writer / Production Manager: Gita Bezard
Dramaturg: Humphrey Bower
Movement Mentor: Brooke Leeder
Composer / Musician: Elliott Hughes
Lighting Design: Jenny Vila
Set and costume design: Lea Klein
Sound Design: Dean Hall
Performers: Alissa Claessens, Brendan Ewing, Will O’Mahony, Fran Middleton and Tyrone Robinson.
Musicians: Kate Pass, Ethan Darnelli, Jeremy Thompson

Photography by Christophe Canato