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.

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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)

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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>>

PROFILE | Julian Hobba, The Blue Room’s new ED

Posted by Cecile Lucas, May 29th, 2017

The Blue Room Theatre has a new Executive Director – please welcome Julian Hobba.

Julian is a Director, Programmer and Producer. Not only has he collaborated with many emerging and independent theatremakers during his four years as Artistic Director of the Aspen Island Theatre Company in Canberra, he was Program Manager – Arts and Culture for the Centenary of Canberra, and before that was Company Manager at Malthouse Theatre. He has written, directed or produced a number of his own pieces, including The Slip Lane (2016), Bartleby (2014) and Father.Son.Rule which was shortlisted for the 2008 Griffin Award.

Our Marketing Coordinator Cecile Lucas recently caught up with Julian to find out what brought him over our way, and what he has planned at The Blue Room.

CL: How familiar were you with Perth’s artistic scene before applying for this job?
JH: I’ve met a lot of artists from Perth over my time working in theatre, whether they had migrated to Melbourne, were touring shows or we were meeting at industry gatherings like the Australian Theatre Forum. Between those exchanges and my own interest in Australian theatre, I had a good sense of the macro-level changes in the WA industry and the work that was touring from here. I think in the past decade Western Australian work and artists have enjoyed much greater prominence in the national ecology – companies like The Last Great Hunt and Side Pony Productions for example – and Fringe World has become a greater focal point on the theatre calendar as well.

CL: What excited you about working at The Blue Room Theatre?
JH: There is so much energy and impetus around The Blue Room Theatre and I was aware of the critical role it’s played as an incubator for the work and the companies that have made the national impact I was referring to.

For me there’s a voice that Australian theatre has within Australian culture more broadly that I really gravitate towards it because it kind of makes life worth living. The voice is playful and irreverent and approachable. It’s inclusive and curious and unashamed. The Blue Room Theatre is one of the companies in Australia that embodies that voice, celebrates it, and creates a community around it.

CL: What do you see as your mission as Executive Director? Where do you want to take the organisation?
JH: The Blue Room Theatre has a great story to tell about the importance of the new, and new works of theatre. What we do equips the whole community to better understand, and communicate about, the contemporary world, the way it’s changing, and our relationship to one another.

I really see our mission, as a staff and a board and a membership about 500 people strong, is to do everything we can to support the artists who demonstrate that through their work 40 weeks a year in our two theatre spaces. What we exist to do is support the creation of great new work and great artists and make our venue accessible to the broadest possible audience.

As an organisation, we know that over the next period of the company’s life we need nurture work onto our stages that reflects the diversity and reality of our community. We need to enable the next generation of theatre artists and develop the most urgent voices. We also need to be a good collaborator within the sector and encourage established artists to be ambitious to make works of scale and tour.

Personally, I would really love to see lots of established artists apply to experiment at The Blue Room Theatre – to try that work they would love to do but sits just outside their comfort zone. It’s really exciting to see an artist who has great technique but is clearly discovering something new on stage in front of you.

CL: Are there any productions you’ve seen recently that you think will appeal to Perth’s audiences?
JH: My favourite show for 2017 so far was called Still Life and was at the Sydney Festival. I’m sure it would appeal to audiences anywhere.

It was directed by a Greek director named Dimitris Papaioannou, who is one of those senior artists I was talking about, maybe, who has done a lot of different things, like film and even directing events like the Athens Olympics opening ceremony, but always comes back to theatre to push himself and reconnect with the brilliance of live performance.

The show was about 80 minutes of vignettes inspired by the Myth of Sisyphus. It was largely physical theatre, including an opening sequence of at least 20 minutes which was just play with a large block of ‘marble’ that crumbled onto the stage as different performers were pushed and contorted through a hole in its middle; limbs in and out, from performers in twos or threes. And a thin plastic film, that was a roof to the stage, sagging over the performance and filling with mist. It was funny and also quite stark.

CL: What do you look for in a script? And what turns you off?
JH:Personally, I tend towards lyrical scripts I think – Greek classics, Tennessee Williams, Lorca and Tony Kushner were probably the first plays I really fell in love with; and Patrick White, Dorothy Hewett and Jack Hibberd from the Australian canon. I started out loving poetry and I think the stage can do lyricism in a way that other mediums can’t and it’s what makes play scripts special and unique.

What’s great about The Blue Room Theatre’s programming model, though, is that the decisions aren’t reliant on the tastes of just one person. We have a peer review system that brings expertise and familiarity with a wide variety of theatrical forms and work is programmed based on the strength of its ideas, its team and the thoroughness of its production concept and planning. I think that allows us to take the work that’s most ripe for a presentation within our seasons.

PROFILE | Mararo Wangai

Posted by Thom Smyth, May 26th, 2017

Perth-based playwright and performer Mararo Wangai has been a part of the Black Swan Writers’ Group, creating his own work as well as popping up in productions around town. He’s been working with The Last Great Hunt on their upcoming show The Advisors, opening soon at the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia. Cecile caught up with him ahead of the opening.

COMPETITION TIME – we’ve got a double pass to the preview on Wednesday 31 May. To enter, email with your name and email address by COB Monday 29 May.

Cecile: Can you tell us a bit about the development of The Advisors, and what sparked the show?
Mararo: The development involved a lot of reaching inside each of our collective memories and laying bare the variety of advice that we receive and give. An exploration of the intentions behind the advice came further down the process, and it became clear that there is so much more going on underneath the words; a history, a philosophy, a fear, a fetish, an ideology…all of which pointed to how revealing the giving of advice can be about one’s true self.         

CL: This is a collaborative work with an established group of artists who work together regularly. What is the experience like as a new collaborator?
MW: Incredible. A part of me still worries that it may all be a dream to be honest – to be invited to collaborate with The Last Great Hunt on a second project. It really is a great room to be in; respectful of input, open to discussion, full of constructive feedback and a very hard working team. The Last Great Hunt create a working environment that really allows ideas to flourish, it is no wonder they continue to set the pace of creative output as a company. I continue to learn a great deal from the whole team.

CL: In this piece, audience members can expect to hear all sorts of advice. What is the best or worst piece of advice you’ve ever received from someone? 
MW: Best advice: ‘Take a breath, think about it, come back in the morning’.

Worst advice: varied versions of ‘This won’t hurt’.

CL: As an emerging playwright, who do you go to for advice?

MW: I was very lucky to have Polly Low on my first ever introduction to dramaturgy, through a development with Stages WA in 2013. She really opened my eyes to the delicate balance of believing in your story enough to dare to write it, while also being humble enough to accept feedback and know that you will not have all the answers. She has really played a huge part in my development as a playwright and continues to do so.

CL: What do you struggle with most as a playwright?
MW: Telling stories on behalf of others is something I struggle with a great deal. Coming from a country with a heavy colonialist past, I am aware of the perils that come from misrepresentation; the vilification of dark skin, turning freedom fighters into terrorists, turning corrupt sell-outs into altruistic angels, the list goes on.

I try and learn from each finished script how to keep pushing the limits of my comfort zone and subject matter, but the nagging question remains on my shoulder; as a Kenyan man ‘what right have I –  to write about a Jewish woman who has fallen out of her faith, a middle aged Polish woman who has taken on a young lover, or a kidnapped Ndebele woman in a Shona village?’ I don’t have an answer for myself, except to keep trying to stay true to each character’s voice and allow them to speak for themselves.

I don’t mind getting it wrong. That’s part of it.     

CL: And what do you find most rewarding?
MW: As I am yet to stage any of my plays, right now there is nothing sweeter than sitting in a development room with actors, dramaturg and director and hearing the words fall into place, feeling the strains as a fictional world finally stretches itself out and comes alive after all of our collective efforts. As we say in Swahili ‘Ni tamu sana‘.   

CL: What’s up next for you? Do you have any personal projects in the pipeline?  
MW: It’s a great looking year; We should be finishing my second short film this year, I am waiting to hear back from theatre producers about (finally) staging a work, I am a new member of Blank Space Productions creative team, I am working on a few new drafts to hopefully go on a third play development with Play Writing Australia, and lastly finishing of scripts that are in need of an ending. Watch this space.

Thanks a bunch!

The Last Great Hunt’s The Advisers
31 May to 10 June | State Theatre Centre of Western Australia
Book tickets>>