Interview with Alicia Clements | The Magic Hour

Posted by Thom Smyth, April 25th, 2014

Designing sets and costumes is no easy task – there are so many different considerations to take into account when creating the world, props and outfits for characters to inhabit. Some people make it look easy though – enter Alicia Clements. A talented young designer, Alicia is the recent recipient of the Kristian Fredrikson Scholarship for Design in The Performing Arts, announced at Melbourne’s Green Room Awards, and is one half of the creative team behind The Skeletal System. She’s also the designer on The Magic Hour, creating the caravan, costumes, and puppets that feature in the show. She sat down with Thom Smyth (TS) for a quick catch-up on all things design.

TS: Where do you start the design for a project like The Magic Hour? What was the first thing you did?
AC: The first thing we did was ask ourselves “what kind of a world do we want to set this in”? Unlike most narrative plays, The Magic Hour has no prescriptive setting, which can be quite daunting.  The final decision to create a “storyteller” character who lives in a travelling caravan came out of our development week in Sydney.  From there I started building the look of the world – eclectic possessions, wild plants, rough textures and once-bright colours that have faded and worn out.

TS: You’ve worked on productions on main stages with companies in Australia and the United Kingdom. What was it that excited you about this show?
AC: The storytelling and creative possibilities of this production were incredibly exciting.  I’ve always been fascinated by the dark origins of fairytales and Vanessa’s script explores this to its fullest.

TS: Who is your favourite Magic Hour character? How did you create their look?
AC: My favourite character to dress is the Storyteller herself.  Her look has an earthy, eclectic quality, influenced by different tribes across the world from Australia, to Romania to South America.  We wanted her to feel as though she could survive in any corner of the world with animal skins, leather, rough cotton and wool all featuring in her belongings.

TS: The Magic Hour was originally conceived as a production for Deckchair Theatre at Victoria Hall in Fremantle. Has taking the show on the road been a design challenge?
AC: Fortunately, the design is a travelling caravan so it almost takes care of itself!  The design was always conceived with the possibility of travel in mind and for that reason is adaptable to numerous different spaces.

THE MAGIC HOUR NATIONAL TOUR COMMENCES 20 MAY 2014, TRAVELLING THROUGH QUEENSLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES, ACT, VICTORIA AND THE NORTHERN TERRITORY. KEEP UP TO DATE ON THE TOUR WITH THE HASHTAG #MAGICHOURTOUR

IMAGE CREDIT:CAMERON ETCHELLS

Filed under The Magic Hour


Interview with Georgia Malone | Perth Theatre Company

Posted by Thom Smyth, April 24th, 2014

Returning to Perth to take up the role of Producer and Business Manager at Perth Theatre Company,Georgia Malone chatted to Thom Smyth about the challenges facing the sector, her achievements at Sydney Dance Company, and the new PTC season featuring Performing Lines WA Core Artist Danielle Micich.

TS: You’re back in town! Has much changed in the time you’ve been away?

I am back! Just say that it really is great to be back in Perth. So much has changed in the past 3½ years – it feels like I’ve been away for a decade. When I left, the State Theatre Centre hadn’t opened, there was no such thing as Fringe World and you could only drive one way down William Street!

At the same time, it feels like it was only yesterday that I left. There are so many familiar faces around; it has made the transition much smoother.

I love seeing how the cultural centre has been activated. Before I left, I was the Communications Manager at PICA and quite involved in discussions around how to make the Cultural Centre more vibrant. It’s fantastic to come back and see all the activity – especially during festival time – and the integral roll that PICA plays in that space.

TS: Sydney Dance Company is recognised as an industry leader around the country. Are there any achievements you are particularly proud of during your time there? Anything coming up you’re bummed to be missing?

The last 3 ½ years at Sydney Dance Company were amazing. I was thrown in the deep end and realised I could swim. I was given the freedom to push the boundaries and take risks with the marketing of the company. It made it really rewarding, as I was able to adapt as I went along. Being in a small company like Sydney Dance Company (by Sydney standards!), I was able to try new things and challenge the way things were always done.

It was a really action packed couple of years and I was proud to have achieved what we did. One of the big projects was driving the entire rebrand of the organisation, from initial research that included extensive audience and population research; followed by brand strategy workshops; working with the rebranding agency to develop a new logo and all the way through to the complete website redevelopment.

I am also quite proud of the video content that we created around the seasons. I worked really closely with Peter Greig (who came to the company through the Australia Council’s Geek in Residence program) to create beautiful and engaging video content and imagery. You can check out some of the behind the scenes stuff here!

Having such a close, creative relationship that was ever changing meant we could be responsive to audiences’ needs. And it was a lot of fun.

I’m really sad to be missing the current season, Interplay. They opened a week after I left, and after spending many months working on the show, sad to not to get to see it! I’m planning to head to Melbourne for the season in early May. And they will be here in June with 2 One Another – which is an amazing show – can’t wait to have them in my home-town.  (I also miss the people! An amazing bunch)

TS: What do you see as the major challenges facing the Perth performing arts sector? Are they specific to Western Australia or are they true of your experience in the eastern states as well?

There are a lot of differences between the performing arts sector here and in Sydney. There are many more Major Performing Arts Companies in Sydney, while in Perth there are just four. On the other hand, the independent scene here is healthy, something that is not as evident in Sydney.

The culture for private giving and philanthropy in Sydney is also much stronger. There seems to be a groundswell toward private giving in WA but it is a slow one – in Sydney it’s a whole different ball game!

There is so much great art that comes out of Perth, not only in the performing arts but in the visual arts as well. It’s really exciting to see all of these artist run initiatives and the creation of new work outside traditional theatres and galleries.

When it comes to challenges, I think that is the same for everyone. The unknowns when you rely on government funding and private giving for survival; when the landscape changes so often it can be quite daunting; when you’re relying on audiences buying into what you’re offering. But the challenges are the reasons why we work in the sector, right?WISH_Website-slide

TS: Performing Lines WA core artist Danielle Micich is reprising her role alongside Humphrey Bower for PTC’s first 2014 show Wish, a co-production with Humphrey’s company Night Train Productions. What brought about this co-pro, and is this sort of partnership something we can expect more of?

We are building on a strong history of supporting independent artists. We offer critical pathways for West Australian artists, providing opportunities to develop their skills, touring repertoire and more. It’s important also to support artists at all stages of their career – as evidenced with Wish and the very impressive careers of both Humphrey and Danielle.

Our Artistic Director has been engaged in discussions with Humphrey Bower for a considerable period, and it felt like the right time for Humphrey to develop the work and for us to share it with a larger audience.

TS: How do you sum up Perth Theatre Company’s 2014 season? What are you most looking forward to?

Our 2014 season is eclectic with a little of something for everyone. It touches on very personal subject matter in very different ways.

I’m most excited by White Rabbit, Red Rabbit in September. The idea of the completely unknown for both the audience and the actor is exhilarating. You never know what you’re going to get and it’ll challenge and confront you. But in a good way.

There are going to be many beautiful moments throughout the year, I’m also really excited to see Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography. They have been in rehearsals for a couple of weeks and from all reports it’s going to be a great show. And also fantastic to have Perth artists Andrea Gibbs and Rachael Dease involved!

The 2014 Perth Theatre Company season is now available online. See the full season here.

WISH | 14 – 24 May | Studio Underground
Eight Gigabytes of Hardcore Pornography | by Declan Greene | 2 – 12 July | Studio Underground
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit | by Nassim Soleimanpour | 1 – 13 September | Studio Underground


Interview with Kathryn Osborne | The Last Great Hunt

Posted by Thom Smyth, April 16th, 2014

Late in 2013, a new theatre company launched in Perth. Independent companies spring fairly frequently, but this launch sparked national press attention. Formed from members of Weeping Spoon (Tim Watts), Mythophobic (Jeffrey Jay Fowler), Side Pony Productions (Adriane Daff) and The Duck House (Kathryn Osborne, Gita Bezard), and teaming up with long-time collaborators Arielle Gray and Chris Isaacs, The Last Great Hunt was born to much anticipation.

With two new works to be presented at The Blue Room Theatre and Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts this year, The Last Great Hunt are getting ready to show their first works under the new company name, as well as maintaining the momentum of the touring juggernaut Alvin Sputnik. Thom Smyth caught up with Director Kathryn Osborne to hear about the group and their new work Elephents.

TS: The Last Great Hunt was formed last year, drawing members from local companies The Duck House, Weeping Spoon and Mythophobic. What was the impetus for creating the new company?

KO: The seven artists that now make up TLGH (myself, Gita Bezard, Adriane Daff, Jeffrey Jay Fowler, Tim Watts, Arielle Gray and Chris Isaacs) had already been collaborating under smaller companies for several years. We wanted to formalise this ongoing collaboration, strengthen our creative relationships and support each other’s practices. The seven artists all have different aesthetics and focuses in our work, but we have common ideas about our practices. We value collaboration and place equal importance on audience accessibility and artistic rigour when making our work.

It’s really exciting to be working on different projects with different combinations of the seven artists.

TS: How does the company work? Can any members create work under the company name, or is there an overarching artistic style or rationale to the works?

KO: The artists make decisions collectively on what works we will develop and produce. Artists pitch ideas to the group and then those ideas are discussed and a decision is made by majority (seven is a good number for this). We’re pretty much acting as one artistic director. This can be challenging and time consuming, but it’s ultimately rewarding for everyone.

The overarching artistic style is us. The identity of the company is the combined styles and pursuits of the seven artists. It’s eclectic, but there are definitely things in common we have in our works. I would say a sense of play and humour are definitely a key to all our works.

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TS: Elephents is your first project to hit the stage. Tell us a bit about it.

KO: Elephents is a play with songs about the ‘elephant in the room’. We were interested in exploring why we can’t be honest about things that are glaringly obvious. We are looking at both the personal and political in this idea. The work is in the style of a sit-com with some great musical numbers and a dark simmering undertone.

TS: The team involved are not immediately associated with musical theatre. Has it been something you’ve all wanted to have a go at?

KO: YES. Personally, I always love to work with music, especially live music. Musicians have surrounded me all my life and I love how musicians work. It’s so attractive to me. Good use of music and sound can transform a work in my eyes. I also love playing with the form of a song as a way to communicate something deeper and unsaid in a piece. And Elephents is about what is unsaid.

TS: It’s the first full-length show from The Last Great Hunt, and there is a lot of interest in the new company. How are you handling the weight of expectation?

KO: I’m just really excited that there is a buzz about the show and us. In any creative process you never know if you are going to succeed or fail. So I try not to worry about the expectation. Another key aspect of TLGH is to be risk taking in the work we make and to push ourselves. Sometimes this might not come off. But I believe it’s vital to take these risks to make engaging, challenging and entertaining work.

I can’t wait to hear what people have to say.

TS: What’s up next for the company?

The company is currently working on Falling Through Clouds which was funded through the Theatre Works grant from DCA. That show will be on at PICA at the end of September. We’re also developing a new play trilogy about female heroism for production in 2015.

We’re also working on touring opportunities for a back catalogue (Minnie and Mona Play Dead, Alvin, A History of Drinking). We have a past body of work that we still really want to get out there.

Elephents runs 29 April – 18 May at The Blue Room Theatre. For tickets and info, click here. For more on The Last Great hunt, click here.

Images courtesy Jamie Breen.


Interview with Chris Bendall | The Magic Hour

Posted by Thom Smyth, April 4th, 2014

The former director of Fremantle’s now sadly closed Deckchair Theatre, Chris Bendall (CB) combined Vanessa Bates’ wonderful script The Magic Hour with the talents of renowned performer Ursula Yovich…and it was a hit. Ahead of the national tour of the show, commencing in late May at Queensland Theatre Company, Thom Smyth (TS) chatted to Chris about the show, the process, and the legacy of the company.

TS: The Magic Hour is back! Are you excited to hit the road and take it on tour? What can audiences expect?
CB: Absolutely! It’s very exciting to get an opportunity to revisit this work. It happens so rarely that you are able to return to a play and give it a second life, and I’m so thrilled that we are going to be able to take this beautiful play to so many different places right round the country. It’s a work of which I’m enormously proud so I can’t wait to see audiences’ reactions to it .
What can they expect? A beautiful new Australian work, that’s in equal parts funny and moving, a marvellous performance from Ursula Yovich – and a great night out in the theatre!

 TS:  What was it that originally drew you to the script?
CB: Its great heart. I loved that it was so funny, that it was about reinventing fairy tales in a completely surprising, original and uniquely Australian way, that it speaks to a really broad audience of all ages, that it offers terrific theatrical potential, and provides a really unique and transformational opportunity for a fine performer to embrace.photo 1

TS: Ursula is an amazing performer. What was it like working with her on the production?
CB: She was just a treat to work with. I loved the process of working with her; she works extraordinarily hard and was so dedicated to this play and developing it with us for its first season in Fremantle.  She is uniquely talented and absolutely perfect for this role. The part calls for a performer who can convincingly play six different characters ranging from a young child to an old grandma and everything in between. Someone who could be very funny, and intensely moving, and provide not only believability to each of the characters, but a richness and depth to the roles. She is just perfect for this play, and I’m sure audiences will love her in it.

TS: The Magic Hour was in Deckchair Theatre’s final season. Is it exciting to revisit the project, or a little bittersweet?
CB: It’s wonderful – that this work has a second life. It’s just testament to the fact that the work that we were creating at Deckchair will live on, just as the artists whose careers were nurtured by the company, the companies that were supported, the audiences whose appetite was nourished by theatre, and the many many playwrights whose work was supported over the 30 year history will also continue.

THE MAGIC HOUR NATIONAL TOUR COMMENCES 20 MAY 2014, TRAVELLING THROUGH QUEENSLAND, NEW SOUTH WALES, ACT, VICTORIA AND THE NORTHERN TERRITORY. KEEP UP TO DATE ON THE TOUR WITH THE HASHTAG #MAGICHOURTOUR

Filed under The Magic Hour