PROFILE | Alex Desebrock – Maybe ( ) Together

Posted by Cecile Lucas, January 31st, 2017

 

Small Voices Louder is an interactive show in two parts, where kids are invited to play and explore an installation that prompts them to express what they really think, with their frank, fearless and funny answers. The second part takes these recorded answers and delivers them to adult ears through radio and public space.

Leading up to the premiere of Small Voices Louder produced by Performing Lines WA at the 2017 Perth Festival, Cecile caught up with Maybe ( ) Together’s lead artist Alex Desebrock to find out why our smallest people can have the loudest voices.

Your works generally position children as the instigators and central figures in each performance. Has this concept always been inherent to your work or was there an impetus that sparked your interest in engaging young voices?

I’ve always wanted to create circuit breakers for people from reality. An opportunity to think big, connect and feel. I kept making this kind of works for adults – but kept getting programmed for children audiences.

I then had this moment in an early work called A Little Piece where six audience members were stuck together in a room with one child. They all LOVED having that child there to watch them open doors, react and made their experience of this immersive puppet world even more magical.

I also realised that children often tell me exactly what I need to hear. And that if you’re not around kids much, you wouldn’t hear their crazy, blunt, inspiring, honest, hopeful, guilt-inducing words.
And really – we need to think more about the next generation, right?

For the development of Small Voices Louder you worked with children in both regional and metropolitan Victoria. Did you find the responses differed between the two? How did that inform the show?

Not especially. It’s really hard to make generalisations about different children’s audiences when you only share the work with about 50 kids I think.

There is one question that asks them to describe their town/city to an Alien. This definitely provides differences and you hear what rural kids lives are like in comparison to city kids. Rural kids talk about space, the big city being the local town whereas City children talk about the attractions, the pros and cons of living in a city and things like that. I am looking forward to finding out more about this at PIAF and then on our regional tour later in 2017.

In the second part of Small Voices Louder, children’s responses are played to adults to elicit reactions and consideration. Do you find your work also triggers conversations amongst the children?

The children wonder through the first part in pairs. This means we do hear their conversations. You can hear their minds working as they try to find the right words for things, correct each other and add to their thoughts.

What was your first experience of participatory theatre? What made you want to become a contemporary maker yourself?

I always go back to The Angel Project by Deborah Warner which I saw when I was 16 at PIAF.  It blew my mind. I had this amazing experience of being in a secret poem in my own city. It made me see the world differently and I realised the power of audience autonomy in a work.

I believe art can provide the space for connection, new perspectives and ultimately better decisions. Life gets so busy we find it hard to stop and think big, daringly, boldly with values, ethics and consideration. Art’s complexity allows transcendence – and this is why I keep making art.

You recently came back to your home town, Perth, after working in Melbourne. Was this move motivated by a desire to be part of Perth’s evolving artistic scene?

Perth has certainly boomed over the last 10 years I wasn’t here! I was getting a bit envious of the fun things happening and those feelings I had when I moved of being in the Arts Capital of Australia had shifted.

But it wasn’t only this. I wanted to make art in a space with differing opinions and beyond a well-trained arts audience.

I also just wanted to be back with the salty air and blue skies. And my dog wanted the dog beaches here.

What do you find the most challenging in creating performances for and with children?

The thing with children is that they are often dragged or pushed into an arts experience. Either with their school, or well-meaning parent. So – you have to work very hard to make it engaging – because (of course) they will be very clear about it if they don’t like it.

I think this is the hardest part. Making it interesting for differing ages and personalities. It’s not easy!

Small Voices Louder by Maybe (   ) Together
Produced by Performing Lines WA | Presented by Perth International Arts Festival
10 February – 5 March 2017 | State Theatre Centre of WA
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Filed under Maybe Together