PROFILE – COMA LAND SET DESIGNER – PATRICK JAMES HOWE

Posted by Cecile Lucas, July 18th, 2017

Emerging Set & Costume Designer and WAAPA Graduate Patrick James Howe generously took time to chat with us during this epic week that is production week. Some of you might already be familiar with Patrick’s previous projects including Venus in Fur (Black Swan Theatre Company, 2015), A View from a Bridge (Yirra Yaakin), Wax Lyrical Productions’ Carrie The Musical (2016 Mathilda Award Winner Best Musical) and Jasper Jones (Barking Gecko). While this is not his first collaboration with Will O’Mahony, it certainly is one that brings great challenges in designing a minimalist set that doesn’t distract the audience from the play but still conveys the mood, and we were very curious to find out how Patrick tackled this new project!

 

This is not your first collaboration with Will O’Mahony. What is it like working with him?
Working with Will, over the last few years, have been some of my best experiences. Will has a fantastic theatre brain and for every show we have worked on together, the approach has been slightly different. However what has not changed is Will’s passion and work ethic. Will puts so much into the show he is working on, there are times when I feel like I’m not doing enough, compared to the amount of work he is doing. This pushes me to do more and I like that.

 

What is about Coma Land that grabs you most? And how do you think the audience will respond to it?
Coma Land is exactly the kind of play I want to work on. Coma Land, unlike a lot of other contemporary Australian plays, deals with existential questions in a way that is separate from our everyday lives. This allows us to ask the big questions about ourselves without getting bogged down in trivial aspects of everyday lives. This is a beautifully crafted story, and I think audiences will find their own things to love about this play.

 

What was the design brief for this production?
HAHAHAHHAHA. The design brief for the production, has and still is an ever-evolving idea. However, through the many design explorations for this production, we kept coming back to the same things. The world is continuous and confined, it is an ethereal terrain and on its own plain of existence. It is soft to touch but has a feeling of coldness.

 


Oklahoma! (by MUSEA)

 

Can you tell us what was the most challenging part of designing the set for Coma Land?
From a designer point of view, this is a play with endless possibilities.  When I was doing my initial visual research, I don’t think I came across one image that I think would work. The challenging part was being precise and definite about our choices, and only using ideas that we knew for certain helped and worked with the story.

 

How did you become interested in working in the Performing Arts? And how did your parents take it?
I dropped out of High School in year nine and did a cabinet making apprenticeship. It was after finishing this that I decided I didn’t want to just go to work every day. I wanted to be doing and giving more. I wanted to be a part of creating things that inspired people. The Performing Arts, was the ideal industry for this. As for my parents, well, like children of most baby boomers, we were told we could be anything we wanted to be.

 


Wax Lyrical’s Carrie The Musical (2016 Matilda award winner: Best Musical)

 

Now that you’ve been working for several years, can you tell us a bit about how you work and how does the process begin for you?
After several years, I probably still can’t tell you this. Every project is different and truth be told, I probably approach each process like it is the first time I am doing it.

 

How true is the final set to the ideas you get during or right after reading the script? And how much is the design affected by the creative team input?
I think any ideas you get right after or during your first reading is a good starting point. However, they are only a small piece of the puzzle. Your design is affected by many other aspects of the production: other creatives, the director’s brief, production parameters and the actors are all pieces of the puzzle you must put together. Once you do that then you may get a more truthful idea about the final set.

 


Fracture (New Ghost)

 

In terms of your work in general, is there a style that defines what you do, or a signature of some kind?
I like to think that I don’t have a defining style. I like to approach every play in a way that best helps the story. However, if you ask my peers what they thought of my designs, they will probably say something like “Oh that design was totally a Patrick design”.

 

 
Venus in Fur (Black Swan State Theatre Company, 2015)

 

Which designers/artists do you admire and where do you get your inspiration from?
Artist: Pablo Picasso, Van Gogh, Piet Mondrian, Jackson Pollack.
Designers: Joseph Svoboda, Edward Gordan Craig, Katrin Brack.
However, even though all these artists’ works are beautiful and I love them very much, it is not their art that inspires me the most, but the fact that they didn’t accept the status quo, and challenged the boundaries and ideas of their respective art forms.

 

What’s your best advice for aspiring set and/or costume designers?
It only can’t be done until you do it.

 


Hamlet (WAAPA/Barking Gecko)

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PROFILE | COMA LAND ACTRESS – MORGAN OWEN

Posted by Cecile Lucas, July 13th, 2017

Emerging performer/theatre-maker and recent WAAPA graduate Morgan Owen is our last Coma Land cast member to be quizzed. While this marks her debut with Black Swan Theatre Company, Morgan has already started to make a name for herself in the theatre world with recent work including The War on Food (Perth Fringe, 2016), The Book of Life (Perth Fringe, 2017) and Paradise (Adelaide Fringe, 2017) which she co-wrote and performed in. In Will O’Mahony’s new play, Morgan plays Penguin, a young girl trapped in the world-in-between, who is determined to fly. Her performance on stage is brilliant, and we were very excited to catch up with her and chat about the show ahead of its Western Australian premiere next Thursday.

 

Co-produced with Black Swan State Theatre Company, Coma Land is opening next Thursday at the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia
20 July – 6 August, Studio Underground.
Tickets and info>>

 

What was your first impression after reading Coma Land script, and what was about this play that grabbed you most?
What really charmed me after first reading Coma Land was the story. The play is centred around people and the relationships that exist between them and despite being set in a kind of other-worldly limbo full of rules and time limits, it focuses on a simple story that is delicate, joyous and full of heart. There’s a vulnerability to it and it can go from being incredibly funny one moment to quite devastating the next and that’s something I find very exciting.

 

What do you see as some of the main ideas behind this play? How do you think audiences will respond?
I think at its core it’s a story about parents and children. It explores what happens if conditions are placed on a love that should be unconditional and what happens as a result of trying control something (like raising a child) which is not something to be mastered but rather a gift.  It’s a play about mastery and acceptance and, I think, a celebration of difference. It’s not a play that tells you what to think, it’s doesn’t present a black and white version of what is right and what is wrong. The characters are all a little morally ambiguous and for that reason I think it will resonate with people and stay with them after they leave the theatre!

 

You play a little girl named Penguin in Coma Land. What can you tell us about your character and what is it that you like about her?
Penguin is a character who runs at a million miles a minute. She’s been isolated all her life so she can be a little awkward but she’s completely unaware of it like most young children. She’s a character who, in contrast to Boon – who’s a prodigy, isn’t an intellectual character but she is extremely emotionally intelligent, generous and open which makes her a real joy to play.

 

Now that you have almost finished rehearsals, is there anything challenging you or surprising you?
I actually think I’m most surprised by how fun the process has been, without it sounding like I was expecting it to be awful! I think we have a really talented and wonderful group of people working on this show who all get along very well and a supportive and playful rehearsal room. I feel very lucky to get to be a part of it.

 

How did you become interested in working in the Performing Arts? And how did your parents take it?
I’ve always been interested in pursuing a career in the Arts, coming out of high-school that was all I could really imagine myself doing. My parents have always been very supportive. My mum was a visual artist and my dad is a lawyer who had dreams of a career in theatre so he’s always encouraged me to persevere a little more than he did!


Image of Morgan Owen and Jo Morris in The Book of Life (Renegade Production)Photo By Jamie Breen

Lastly, can we expect to see you in any other work this year?
Not as of yet! I’m going to take a little time after Coma Land to pursue writing which I’ve always been interested in.

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PROFILE | COMA LAND ACTOR – BEN SUTTON

Posted by Cecile Lucas, July 11th, 2017

It’s week three of rehearsals and the COMA LAND team is truly immersed in the grey matter world of Will O’Mahony’s brilliant piece about parents and children, success and failure. One of our favourite characters is Cola, a grumpy yet funny male panda, brilliantly interpreted by actor Ben Sutton. Originally from UK, Ben is a WAAPA Graduate and award-winning actor and comedian with experience spanning from theatre to television and film. Not only is it a delight to watch Ben playing Cola on stage, but it’s also a pleasure to sit down with him and have a quick chat (and a laugh) about this new production and his experience in general.

Co-produced with Black Swan State Theatre Company, Coma Land is opening soon at the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia
20 July – 6 August, Studio Underground.
Tickets and info>>

 

What was your first impression after reading Coma Land script, and what was it about this play that grabbed you most?
I was really impressed after reading the script for the first time. I thought it was genuinely funny. The world was really intriguing too. There was a feeling of wonder and innocence to it but also an underlying sinisterness, and I really liked that.

What do you see as some of the main ideas behind this play? How do you think audiences will respond?
There’s a fair bit going on in this play. The desire to be normal, not special. Acceptance. Both self and from others. Love. Optimism and saying yes to things, even if it turns out you are getting conned. The need to fly. I have no idea how audiences will respond, but that’s what’s really exciting about it. We shall see!

You play Cola, a male panda. What can you tell us about this character and what is it that you like about him?
I liked Cola as soon as I read the script. He is funny and it seems really fitting that this giant Panda has such a wonderfully cynical and irreverent attitude. He doesn’t give a rats. He mostly just wants to be left alone, without any human interference but he can also be coaxed out of his shell by the right people. And once his guard is down he’s actually quite playful and caring. He’s a panda after all, and they can’t help but be cute.

With a diverse body of work in theatre, television and film, can you share a moment or experience that stands out as formative to you as an actor?
My time at WAAPA was hugely formative. Even though I was a rubbish student, I came out with a real love for stories and a desire to be part of telling them. Up until then I think it had just been about showing off, Y’know? “Look at me on the stage, saying words good!” But to be honest, I think it’s when I finally moved into comedy that stands out as the most formative experience. From working and touring with the Big Hoo Haa as an improvisor, as well as becoming a professional stand up comedian and a writer for film, I learned the importance of self generated material. To not only be a part of the story but to create the story.

How did you become interested in working in the Performing Arts? And how did your parents take it?
I’ve wanted to be an Actor ever since I was a kid. After I landed the lead role of the title role in my primary school’s production of The Selfish Giant, I was hooked. Thankfully, my parents have never been anything but supportive of my choice to work in the arts. I’m very lucky. Although, I did grow up in a rough area in the UK, so I think they were just happy that it wasn’t a career stealing cars or something.

Have you ever considered a career other than actor?
Stealing cars.
No, not really. I’ve had plenty of jobs but I’ve only ever really considered a career in the arts.

Lastly, can we expect to see you in any other work this year?
Yes, look out for me, and I mean look out for me coz I aint’ there long, in the upcoming Ben Elton feature film Three Summers as well as regularly at local comedy venues like Lazy Susan’s Comedy Den and The Comedy Lounge.

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PROFILE | COMA LAND ACTRESS – AMY MATHEWS

Posted by Cecile Lucas, July 6th, 2017

 

Following a successful season at The Blue Room Theatre for her recent role in Toast, Amy Mathews is back on stage playing Jinny, a birthday party planner, in Will O’Mahony’s new play Coma Land. Best known for her role as Rachel Armstrong in Australian soap opera Home and Away, Amy has also made a name for herself in theatre with various roles in Barking Gecko Theatre Company living lecture of Romeo and Juliet and most recently in Black Swan State Theatre’s production First Time Read directed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler. In between rehearsals, we caught up with the beautiful Amy to reflect on this new play and what it all means to her.

 

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

I thought it was incredibly imaginative and insightful. Will’s writing was something that really spoke to me in the piece. He has a very unique point of view.

 

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

I see some of the main ideas of the play being parents and children and letting go. I think this play will insight big, deep discussions in the foyer afterwards which is what the best kind of theatre should do. People will come away with different ideas of what the play means and what spoke to them personally, which I think is really exciting.

 

You have been performing in a number of stage and TV productions. Can you share with us a moment or experience that stands out as formative to you as an actor?

I think early in my career touring around Australia and Singapore with Bell Shakespeare’s schools shows was definitely a formative gig for me as an actor. Something about performing for young people in their school environment teaches you about what works and what doesn’t in a visceral and immediate way.

 

How did you become interested in working in the Performing Arts? And how did your parents take it?

I was always interested in performing, even from primary school where are some of my strongest memories. My parents were never prescriptive or expectant when it came to my chosen path. Acting made me happy so they were all for it, I was very lucky I guess.

 

Have you ever considered a career other than actor?

I love the theatre but I’m also a designer. I design patterns for textiles/wallpaper/stationery, etc. I think it’s healthy to be entrepreneurial as an artist in this country.

 

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PROFILE | COMA LAND ACTOR – HUMPHREY BOWER

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.

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