Posted by Cecile Lucas, June 29th, 2017

Continuing our series of Q&As with cast members from Coma Land, we chatted with actor Humphrey Bower who plays Penguin’s father, Esky. Familiar to Perth’s audiences from his previous productions with Black Swan Theatre Company, Perth Theatre Company, Yirra Yaakin and Deckchair, Humphrey’s reputation has also been confirmed with a string of awards and a numbers of collaborations with some of the biggest companies around the country including MTC, STC, Malthouse,Thin Ice, Anthill, Theatreworks, as well as independent venues like La Mama and The Blue Room. In between rehearsals, Humphrey fills us in on Coma Land and his first collaboration with director Will O’Mahony.


Coma Land by Will O’Mahony
A Performing Lines WA/ Black Swan State Theatre Company co-production
20 July – 6 August 2017 | State Theatre Centre of Western Australia, Studio Underground
Info and booking>>


What was your first impression after reading Coma Land script, and what was about this play that grabbed you most?

I’ve been excited by Coma Land since I first began reading drafts of the script a few years ago. I was immediately grabbed by the image of a barren, frozen place where people go when they’re in a coma –which is also a metaphorical and theatrical space where their (and our) core beliefs get challenged and put to the test. I love Will’s writing because of its intelligence, its emotional courage, its sly humour, and its abiding sense of mystery.


What do you see as some of the main ideas behind this play? How do you think audiences will respond?

For me Coma Land is about acceptance, learning to live with yourself and learning to let go. I think audiences will be intrigued, challenged and hopefully entertained.


You play Penguin’s dad, Esky, in Coma Land. What can you tell us about your character and what is it that you like/dislike about him?

As a father myself with two daughters, I can relate to Esky on many levels. I can understand his desire to hold on, his fear and even his sense of guilt, but I also pity him. Letting go is especially hard for him, for reasons that become apparent in the course of the play, but which I don’t want to give away now.


This is your first collaboration with Will O’Mahony. How do you find it working with him?

I’ve been an admirer of Will’s work as a writer, director and actor for some years, and was lucky enough to work with him on an earlier development of Coma Land. I think his talent and experience in all three areas of creativity gives him a special facility for working with actors and for developing and staging his own work. Most importantly, he has a unique vision and a clear sense of the kind of theatre he wants to make, and that makes him an absolute joy to collaborate with.


You are well known in the artistic scene having worked with a range of mainstream and independent companies and artists across Australia, as well as receiving many awards both as actor and writer/director. Can you share with us a moment or experience that stands out as formative to you as an actor?

That’s a hard question to answer! In 2015 I was fortunate enough to receive a mid-career Creative Development Fellowship from DCA and spent five months travelling overseas, seeing some remarkable work and training with some legendary teachers like Kristin Linklater in Orkney and Philippe Gaulier in France. I’m still processing the whole experience, but I think it will continue to have a formative effect on me for many years to come. More recently I’ve been teaching acting part-time at WAAPA, which has also been a formative experience in terms of giving me an opportunity to reflect on my own formation, experience and ‘process’ as an actor.


Lastly, what do you have in the pipeline for the rest of the year?

I hope I’ll still be doing some teaching, and I have some projects of my own that I’m hoping to bring to fruition. Beyond that, who knows? The older I get, the less I know what lies ahead, and the more I learn to trust the unknown.


Posted by Cecile Lucas, June 22nd, 2017

With rehearsals for Coma Land now underway, our Marketing Coordinator Cecile has some interviews lined up with cast members and the creative team. First one to be quizzed is Kirsty Marrilier who plays Boon, the main character. Kirsty is a 26 year old South African Australian actress who immigrated to Australia in 2000. Kirsty caught the acting bug at the early age of 10 and is an acting graduate of WAAPA (2015). Since moving to Sydney in late 2014, she has performed in a number of theatre and film productions. Happy to be back in Perth to perform in Will O’Mahony’s new play, we caught up with Kirsty to find out more about Coma Land and her experience as an emerging performer.


Coma Land by Will O’Mahony
A Performing Lines WA/ Black Swan State Theatre Company co-production
20 July – 6 August 2017 | State Theatre Centre of Western Australia, Studio Underground
Info and booking>>


What was your first impression after reading Coma Land script, and what was about this play that grabbed you most?

I was pretty taken by the play when I first read it. It’s incredibly clever, eloquent piece with some beautiful themes at its core. I’ve always really been interested in work that is magic realist or surrealist in some way. Stories that will transport an audience and allow them to open up their perception of the world. Coma Land does this in various ways.


What do you see as some of the main ideas behind this play? How do you think audiences will respond?

There are some big ideas set up in this play. Many of which work in contrast to each other. We’ve been looking at the relationship between difference and normality, life and death, acceptance and mastery within the human condition.  Coma Land is a play that sets up questions for the characters and inevitably the audience to ask themselves. It’s about parenthood and children, and unconditional love but throws these things into a surrealist setting. It investigates the domestic through the fantastic and it is curious, endearing and magical. I think audiences will be moved by it in some way!


You play Boon in Coma Land, a fifteen years old prodigy girl. What can you tell us about your character and what is it that you like about her?

Boon isn’t like most teenagers because she has the most incredible mind and a complex relationship to it. She’s an observer and for me, she represents the “difference” in the play (something I connect with quite strongly). As much as her temperament is very different to my own, I’m finding her completely fascinating to explore.


Since your debut in Perth, you have been starring in a number of theatre and movie productions in Sydney. Can you share a moment or experience that was formative to you as an actor?

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to act opposite two seasoned screen actors in a micro budget feature film called The Greenhouse. It was incredibly insightful watching how much grace these women had on set and the nuance they gave their performances. It pushed me to always strive for more and to never be complacent with the amount of detail I give a character.

Another thing, collaboration is key. Especially in the Australian industry. You can’t do this on your own.

In The Greenhouse, we shot 120 pages of script in 20 days and it was so brilliant to see how much can be done if you have a strong team of passionate creative minds around you.

The Greenhouse, AFTR, directed by Tom Wilson, 2017


Have you ever considered a career other than actor?

I wanted to be an interior designer once. That was weird.


Lastly, can we expect to see you in any other work this year?

There are a few things in the works but nothing confirmed just yet! Stay tuned. Lol.

Realism, Stage play WAAPA directed by Anthony Skuse, 2014.

NEWS | Michelle Hovane reports on the 2017 ASSITEJ World Congress

Posted by Cecile Lucas, June 20th, 2017

Sensorium Theatre Co-Artistic Director Michelle Hovane recently attended the 2017 ASSITEJ World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa, with five other Australian delegates as part of the Australian Council’s ASSITEJ 2017 Youth Arts Leadership Delegation. The nine-day long seminar comprised a Festival, a Conference and a World Congress, all dedicated to theatre for young audiences. As the only delegate from WA, Michelle happily answered to our questions about what she gained from this international experience, as well as sharing some great tips for anyone attending similar showcase events.


You just came back from attending the 2017 ASSITEJ World Congress in Cape Town, South Africa. Can you tell us a bit more about this event?

ASSITEJ unites theatres, organisations and individuals from around the world who make theatre for children and young people so that they can share knowledge and practice within the field of theatre for children and young people in order to deepen understandings, develop practice, create new opportunities and strengthen the global sector. This year the decision-making congress, performance festival and research conference were all included in the “Cradle of Creativity” – which took place over 2 weeks in Cape Town, South Africa. This was the first time ASSITEJ was hosted on the African continent.


As an Artistic Director of a small company and a performer, what are the benefits of attending such event, and what impact does it have on your personal practice?

What a privilege to be part of this feast of performance, conversation and networking! Coming from a small company based in an isolated city, it was truly mind blowing to take the pulse of theatre making for children and young people internationally and be included in a global community of people who are passionate about the cultural access and rights of the next generation.  I felt deeply nourished, challenged, inspired and affirmed – it was like soul food to keep going and doing the work that I do.


Zick Zack Puff by Cie Mafalda (Switzerland)


How prepared were you before heading to South Africa? What advice would you give to anyone attending a similar event?

The programme for the Cradle of Creativity festival, conference and congress was overwhelming. I was enormously lucky to be part of the youth arts leadership delegation and guided by other more experienced Australian delegates and our Australia Council host Kevin Du Preez. For a month prior to the conference I was drip fed snippets of the program and slowly identified the shows, researched workshops and events that were my priority. However, nothing could prepare me for the full glory and chaos of the event itself! I think it is a good idea to have a quick summary of who you are and what you do for the inevitable speed-dating aspect of the networking – having this meant I could quickly identify delegates who I wanted to deepen the conversation with and vice versa. As part of the arts leadership delegation we were encouraged to connect deeply with three people and have three deep learnings and this also helped to focus things a bit.


Did you see any amazing shows and/or productions that resonate with the work that Sensorium Theatre does?

I saw many amazing shows and productions, and part of my agenda in attending the Festival was simply to see as many diverse works as I could, even if they had no obvious connection with Sensorium Theatre.

My favourite show was an electrifying production of Animal Farm performed by black South African women and directed by Shakesperience Productions. I also met Karolina Zernyte, Artistic Director of Theatre of the Senses, a company based in Lithuania, whose work resonated with the work we do in Sensorium Theatre. I was intrigued by some of the work for babies and the very young. I connected with members of IIAN – International Inclusive Arts Network. I also discovered that in the majority world, children with disabilities are often extremely disadvantaged in terms of resources and community attitudes – and it has set me wondering what Sensorium could do to assist those working for change.


Animal Farm by Shakesperience Productions (South Africa)


For you, what was the highlight of your whole week there?

The opening night of the festival was an extraordinary showcase of work from Africa and the Festival Director talked about theatre making as an Act of Love. This was very affirming for the work that we do in Sensorium Theatre and for me personally as an artist. There was a huge sense of the centrality of arts and culture in that society and a feeling of being valued as an artist – in a time when we face an increase in populism, xenophobia and fear of otherness, there was a sense of urgency that we as artists and cultural workers have an important role in creating solidarity, inclusion and togetherness across and within our national boundaries.

Theatre of the Senses(Lithuania)

PROFILE | Gemma Pepper – Independent Producer

Posted by Cecile Lucas, June 7th, 2017

Gemma Pepper is a Sydney-based Independent Producer working with a number of companies on both sides of the country including Erth, Side Pony Productions, and previously for Canberra’s Enlighten Festival 2012-2014 as Creative Producer.

Joining me for a quick interview, Gemma spills the beans about The Irresistible, a co-production between Side Pony and The Last Great Hunt, ahead of its season at PICA, her views on some of the best tech-based performance experiences she’s had recently, and some practical tips for new producers…


TREAT TIME | we’ve got a double pass to the preview of The Irresistible on Wednesday 14 June. To enter, email with your name and email address by COB Monday 12 June.

The Irresistible, 14-24 June at PICA. Info and booking>>

Cecile Lucas: How do you describe what you do when people ask?

Gemma Pepper: I produce theatre, festivals and events and recently I’m trying my hand at producing tech projects as well.


CL: Side Pony Production’s latest show The Irresistible (a co-production with The Last Great Hunt) looks at the assumptions people make about others, particular those based on gender. Can you tell us a bit more about what inspired the work?

GP: The seed for this work was sewn when Zoe, Adriane and Tim (the core creative team) worked together in 2013 on The Wives of Hemingway. They were playing with shifting up which performer played each character, ignoring the gender of the performer, and this led to some fairly interesting revelations about how we (as an audience) expect people to behave. They didn’t really have time to delve into it fully at the time and it’s a point of interest that they have all kept coming back to ever since, so it’s great that they have the opportunity to really dig into the topic in this production.

Side Pony’s production The Wives of Hemingway. Photo by David Collins


CL: Technology frequently features in Side Pony work, with sound being manipulated and played around with in this show. Can you tell us how it works and what effect it has for the viewer?

GP: Sound and the manipulation of the voice is a really big element of this show. We have been using voice modulation software triggered by hand-held wii-motes as a way for the performers to jump from one character to another, using the voice as the defining feature of the character. It’s quite amazing how the sound of a performer’s voice can completely shift how you think of them; allowing a small statured woman to very convincingly become a laddish well-built man in a matter of seconds. This play with voice is quite unnerving as an audience member and it lets our two performers play a lot of different characters.


The Irresistible, photo by David Collins


CL: In a previous interview with The Street you shared that you were interested in all sorts of productions using new technology that enhance audience’s experience. Let’s get nerdy – what have you seen or discovered recently that you’ve been excited about?

GP: There are some really interesting new experiences coming out at the moment that embrace new technologies, some within the arts and some further afield. I really love Roslyn Oades’ work Hello, Goodbye and Happy Birthday (produced by Performing Lines), which is a verbatim theatre work where the performers are guided by documentary audio. Erth is cooking up a brand new VR experience with its prehistoric marine creatures, which will be amazing when it comes out and I’ve stumbled across this fantastic reading app called Novel Effect which uses voice recognition to track your progress as you read aloud from a children’s book and it overlays sound effects to match the story.

Hello, Goodbye & Happy Birthday. Photo by Sarah Walker

CL: You’ve worked independently as a producer, as well as for companies including Erth. Can you share with us a moment or experience that stands out as formative to you as a producer?

GP: You have moments all the time where you think you are way out of your depth but once you’re in it you can’t back out, so you just knuckle down and get the job done only to look back and realise what a major learning curve it was. “Spectacular by Night” was one of those events for me, which I cooked up when I was Creative Producer of the Enlighten festival in Canberra. I had come up with the idea of hanging trapeze artists under two hot air balloons for a night glow (which is where the hot air balloons glow at dusk), it seemed like a speccy idea at the time but it wasn’t until I was looking over the 15-20,000 people who had come to watch it, hoping like anything the wind wasn’t going to pick up, that I really appreciated the ridiculous ambition of what we were trying to pull off… thankfully everything went smoothly and the crowd were suitably impressed.


CL: So you’re based in Sydney, Zoe is based in Perth, and the creative team for The Irresistible are drawn from across Australia. Does that make working collaboratively a challenge? How do you overcome the tyranny of distance?

GP: Zoe and I have worked this way for a long time, so it’s pretty much second nature now. We use a hell of a lot of communication platforms, which can get a bit confusing, but we check in with each other all the time. Bringing others into that space is a little harder and it’s been really important to factor in face to face time, where everyone can get more of a sense of the humour and general aesthetic of what the show is. We now have everyone in the room, which is great, and they are cranking out some pretty amazing content which will make for a really punchy show. I gotta say I’m pretty excited about what it’s becoming.


CL: What’s your best advice for aspiring producers?

GP: It’s really important to take on projects that extend your skills, where you learn from others and build your capacity but it’s also important not to say yes to everything. Once you have said yes you don’t have that time available for the next project that comes along that might be amazing… so it’s good to be discerning in the work that you take on.

Side Pony Productions & The Last Great Hunt’s The Irresistible
14 – 24 June | PICA Performance Space | Info and booking>>

Hello, Goodbye and Happy Birthday is touring nationally from July to September. Catch this multi-award winning production on their only WA dates at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre from 25-26 August 2017. Info and Booking>>