Posted by admin, 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.
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.
Posted by admin, March 27th, 2014
What is ‘live art’? It’s a contentious term that has been applied to works from a broad swathe of cross art form contemporary practice. So it’s a daunting task to attempt to answer that question, and even more so to curate a Festival of Live Art. Arts House, Theatre Works and Footscray Community Arts Centre took on the challenge, with a massive three-week program from across the world. The question wasn’t answered for us, but we (Thom and Fiona) found it was well worth trying.
We hit FOLA – Melbourne’s inaugural Festival of Live Art – in week two, when it had taken over the whole of Arts House, converting the North Melbourne Town Hall and the nearby Meat Market into a playground of live performance. James Berlyn was suited up and manning Tawdry’s typewriters, ready for the secrets Melbourne had to offer, having already hosted the Silent Drag Booth of Berlyn earlier in the week.
The works we saw:
Sam Halmarack (UK) | Sam Halmarack & The Miserablites
An adorable take on audience participation, ably facilitated by our stranded band frontman and a suitably daggy “instructional” video work. Took the audience on the journey.
Tristan Meecham | Game Show
Putting his life’s possessions on the line for the live “studio audience”, Tristan Meecham as our host led selected contestants through several gruelling challenges to find the ultimate winner. Large scale and ambitious.
triage live art collective & Nicola Gunn | Live Art Escort Service
Fiona procured the assistance of Nicola Gunn to ponder the big artistic question of the festival – What is live art? – while being led outside and down surrounding dark laneways. Peering in on the lives of others through open windows, definitions of live art melted away into shared experience.
Sam Routledge & Martyn Coutts | I Think I Can
This Perth Festival favourite called the North Melbourne Town Hall home for the week, laying down the model railway for locals to bring the miniature world to life. Fiona’s Giant Man arrived in town as a political appointment as Acting Police Inspector, only to spring into action to save a Giant Woman being threatened by a vampire on the hotel roof…
Julie Vulcan | Drift
Entering a contemplative space of twinkling lights and tentative refuge, we were greeted with an inflatable flotilla of “vessels” where you could curl up against the ravages of the outside world. Travellers remained for such a long time we both missed out on the trip.
Malcolm Whittaker | Ignoramus Anonymous
An interactive support group for the ignorant. Is there something you are too ashamed to admit that you don’t know? The sort of thing everyone would scoff at? Ignoramus Anonymous is here to help. Thom’s group were both forthcoming with their knowledge gaps and with their answers, Fiona’s group…not so much.
Paul Gazzola | Gold Coin Series
Three works spread across the Town Hall and Meat Market spaces, Paul Gazzola encouraged us to questions our notions of value, worth, and what you truly think a dollar is worth.
Ranters Theatre | I Know That I Am Not Dead (created by Beth Buchanan)
Fiona was the first audience member to enter Beth’s tent on a first floor balcony at Arts House and spend 20 minutes discussing sleep and not sleeping – one on one. The blankets were cosy, the thermos was full of hot peppermint tea, the conversation convivial.
Emma Beech | Life is Short and Long
A work in development, this facilitated conversation about what we know, how we feel, and how we were affected by the Global Financial Crisis morphed into a conversation about coping with crisis more broadly. Fascinating conversation, and Thom got into the snacks.
Mish Grigor | Man O Man
Part performance, part town hall meeting, post’s Mish Grigor joined forces with a team of local female writers to script letters to be read on the final night of the Patriarchy. On hearing the beautifully and hilariously crafted arguments for and against, participants were invited to vote on whether the male tyranny should prevail. The performance also included lamingtons. Lots of them.
Live Art Dance Party
Curated by Arts House, this was a hit and miss celebration of different works, crossing art forms, boundaries and taste levels. Sisters Grimm and The Town Bikes were highlights.
Sarah Rodigari | A Filibuster of Dreams
While many were sleeping off the effects of a Saturday night, Sarah Rodigari was delivering a mammoth ten hour durational performance reciting well-wishes submitted by audience members to their fellow Melbournites.
Amy Spiers & Catherine Ryan | Nothing To See Hear (Dispersal)
Appropriating the techniques of riot squads and police units, patrons were steered away from the “performance space”, breaking and reforming their crowds. Fiona was a peaceful objector, and got covered in ‘Nothing to See Here’ tape for her disobedience. A stand out experience provoking self-reflection and meditation on freedom of choice.
Fragment31 / Leisa Shelton | Mapping
What are the key touch points and experiences you’ve had with live art in Australia? This work seeks to map the collective memory of all participants. Stage One of a longer project, Leisa reported early results were showing a flurry of Perth-based projects. Stage Two will build an archive and invite us to step back and see what it looks like.
Posted by admin, March 26th, 2014
Subiaco Arts Centre has opened its doors for the inaugural Independent Theatre Festival, providing free venue hire for chosen works, including James Berlyn’s Crash Course (produced by Performing Lines WA), Brooke Leeder’s Dancers Speak Volumes, and Houston Sinclair’s suburban take on The Little Mermaid. Thom Smyth chatted to contemporary dancer and performer Jacinta Larcombe, the titular mermaid in this contemporary exploration of Hans Christian Andersen’s dark fairytale, about the chance to revisit the character and her recent Best Newcomer win at the Performing Arts Western Australia Awards.
TS| First of all, congratulations on the win! It’s just champagne and limos from here on in right?
JL| Let’s hope so, until I actually become a bottle of bubbles myself!
TS| Shifting from movement to more text-based work can be a real challenge. How are you finding the challenge?
JL| I think with each experience I have with text-based work I am becoming more confident. I remember when I first started devising The Little Mermaid; I was so terrified to speak. Which is kind of silly because I talk all the time. But it’s just a different thing talking with your body and thinking that I have say something interesting with my words.
TS| You’ve been pretty busy, going from shows with Steps to The Blue Room Theatre to taking the stage at the State Theatre Centre in Barking Gecko’s OneFiveZeroSeven for Perth Festival. How has that experience been for you?
JL| I feel pretty privileged to be doing so many different works, that I am all really passionate about. Being a part of OneFiveZeroSeven was one of the biggest learning experiences I’ve had, both about myself and being in a festival. The thing that stumps me is that this is my job now, and I’m constantly learning about the way that I work and how everything else does.
TS| The Little Mermaid is back. Is Grace a character that is close to your heart? Do you slip back into it easily, or is she more of a challenge?
JL| It sure is! I was really looking forward to visiting her again, because at that time I really was her. She just has this innate magical feeling about her, without even doing much. I think she stemmed from being on the brink of something, like a transition or transformation, going from girl to mermaid or weak to strong. Finding her again is both easy and difficult, because I know what she looks like and I know how she feels in her body and the way that she is but I think I’m in a different place now so I’m going to have to dig around to find all those nuances again.
TS| What’s up next for you?
JL| Well I am currently rehearsing for the next STEPS show, which is on in May; this years’ show is celebrating 25 years of STEPS. I think it’s going to be a really special experience and my last show with the company. STEPS have done a lot for me as a performer and a person so I can’t wait to go out with a bang. Then I think it will be nice to live life for a little while and see what comes my way!
Jacinta will appear in:
Posted by admin, March 18th, 2014
Proximity Festival is returning in 2014 for a whole new one-on-one performance program, taking over the Fremantle Arts Centre in October and November. Applications are opening soon, with a public forum to be held at FAC on Saturday 29 March. There’s some changes this year – Performing Lines WA artist James Berlyn is moving to an advisory role (he’s going to be in the UK for a DCA Fellowship!), and the team is introducing a national curatorial panel. Thom Smyth caught up with co-curator Kelli Mccluskey to hear what else we can expect from Proximity Festival 2014.
TS: Proximity Festival is back and is becoming something of a staple on the Perth arts calendar. Why do you think audiences are embracing this sort of participatory work so enthusiastically?
KM: Hmmmmn, you know, I think there is a genuine appetite out there for more immersive, participatory experiences in performance lately. Whether it has something to do with the fact that we are now used to living out aspects of our lives vicariously through mobile or static media devices and feel the need for physical intimacy is lacking somewhat, I’m not altogether sure. I think it could also have something to do with the expanding parameters of performance practice as a whole. Audiences no longer expect [or want] to be sat passively in a black box space, but are more inclined to have agency, to interact and to directly affect the outcome. It’s much more of a reciprocal experience and empowering for both parties I think.
TS: You’re based at Fremantle Arts Centre this year. Does the venue and physical space influence the works, or can they exist in any space?
KM: I think even the artist with the most rock solid concept cant fail but to be influenced by the space when they get in there and start working with it. Every building has a history, a personality and architectural idiosyncrasies that set it apart from others of its kind and FAC perhaps more than most! Some artists will be more attuned to these things and will actively find ways to work them into their ideas, whereas others it may be more indirect or accidental. That’s the beauty of being able to workshop in-situ in the building prior to the festival rolling out. it allows you to deepen that engagement with the site if its appropriate to your concept.
TS: The application process is changing this year to include a curatorium of national practitioners. What prompted that change?
KM:Well the lovely Mr James Berlyn who co-founded the festival with us three years ago is taking on his Fellowship which I have to say is so very well deserved and he is also keen to submit an idea to Proximity as a performance maker. So I think it was a realisation for us that we would be missing a vital limb when it came to nutting out the short-listed artists and due to the fact that the festival is now open to all art forms, we thought it would make sense to expand the knowledge pool to include makers, producers, directors from a vast range of practices to help us make informed decisions.
TS: Proximity is heading into its third year and has showcased works from a broad spectrum of practitioners, including non-performers. Are there any artforms that you would love to see appear as part of the festival that haven’t yet?
KM: Yes yes yes! Personally I would love some dark stand-up comedy in the mix as well as maybe some immersive sound or installation type experiences. But the interesting thing is, some of my favourite performances over the years have been from artists not in any way connected to disciplines I’m familiar with, it really has been like venturing into the unknown, which I totally love!
Want to get involved?
Proximity Festival Forum
Saturday 29 March | 10:30am – 1:30pm
Fremantle Arts Centre | Finnerty St, Fremantle
RSVP by Thurs 27 March to email@example.com
Posted by admin, February 24th, 2014
Tasked with gathering the thoughts, fears, opinions, and confessions of 2000 teenagers from across the country, Suzie Miller distilled them down into OneFiveZeroSeven, Barking Gecko Theatre Company’s follow-up to the successful Driving Into Walls which recently showcased at the Australian Performing Arts Market. The new work is on now as part of Perth Festival, and Thom Smyth (TS) discussed the show with Suzie (SM) ahead of its opening. Images courtesy Cameron Etchells and Barking Gecko, and Suzie Miller.
TS | The title OneFiveZeroSeven refers to a few different stats about the lives of teens. How did you go about quantifying all of those? Did the interviewees trawl through everything they own?
SM | Yes – we asked that they count or document every single item in their bedrooms. It was an interesting question because it lead us to a dialogue about so much more than just what they owned.Through the details provided we learnt what was important and precious to them, what was a left over from childhood and what items had special stories attached to them.
TS | Driving Into Walls focussed on the stories and experiences of WA teens, while OneFiveZeroSeven draws from all corners of the Australian teen experience. Do WA teens have a different experience growing up here, or are there common challenges that emerge?
SM | Interestingly there are many commonalities amongst Australian teenagers, but also quite distinct variations. I found that WA teens were possibly more in touch with the environment and landscape. There was a real sense of appreciation for the space and beauty of WA, and a certain sense of belonging to WA first rather than to Australia.
TS | There was some controversy about some of the revelations in Driving. Are there any uncomfortable home truths revealed in the new work?
SM | I think there many truths revealed but nothing sensational or disrespectful, indeed one of the guiding principles that John Sheedy and I have applied (and one that is fully supported by the fabulous Barking Gecko team) is that we want to be true to the trust placed in us by way of bringing the teen voice to the stage – not to censor or manipulate it to suit demands. The feedback we received after Driving Into Walls was that the material rang true with young people and that their lives were reflected accurately in the piece, and to be honest that was our aim. To let the lives of young people speak to the rest of the nation.
TS | When dealing with these intensely personal stories and reflections, are there any areas you won’t go? Is everything open for discussion?
SM | Everything is open for discussion. Of course in a group setting, if there was anything that was disrespectful of others in the room that would have been different – however we never had an issue with the participants. Even tricky areas were discussed frankly and amongst the personal stories, the sometime tears and the really honest dialogue were some extremely humbling moments.
TS | No two teens would have the same experiences growing up. How do you go about creating a script from such diverse and potentially contradictory content?
SM | No two people would even have the same experience of the same event so yes this was a fundamental area to discuss in the experience. The amount of information collected, the notes I have in my writing studio and the sheer volume of data is overwhelming – and often one story or experience was a play in itself. How, as a writer do you condense all of this, select the stories and the experiences that are most reflective without leaving out some of the more poignant moments? I wont lie, it’s a challenge, however it becomes obvious at a certain point which themes and ideas are emerging from the whole, and so I begin by weaving those bits together, and then trying to cut it down to a mere 60 minutes. Of course John and I would love to have the 9 hour version but without that amount of stage time we must make decisions about what is most resonant and what form this takes on stage to give the audience a definite ‘feel’ of the lives we are documenting.
TS | You are working with the same creative team as Driving. Did you approach the new show in the same way, or was this an entirely new experience?
SM | Same team, entirely different process and show! Although I have to say working with the same team meant we already had the most amazing working relationships leading to easy communication and wonderful collaboration. It wasn’t even just the same director, writer, choreographer but also the same sound, lighting and other designers – this allowed for an even more creative room that could build upon each others ideas in a dynamic and fluid manner.
TS | You’re working with Danielle Micich on this project and on Overexposed which is coming out later this year. How do you approach the relationship between text and movement as a writer?
SM | It’s different every time. The works with Gecko are working with young performers on a work that is based on a verbatim content and style. With Overexposed the text is a psychological thriller that explores something quite layered and adult in a manner that is not about high energy movement but about the notion of expressing an internal dialogue within the self onto the very body of the character. There are areas of Overexposed that are strongly text based and others that are much less reliant on text. The creative team is an astonishing array of artists with Danielle at the helm. Having already worked so closely with Danielle it is such a pleasure to be closely involved with this project – and indeed it is a different structure to previous works with this piece being written after much consultation amongst the entire creative team. A three-week creative development has allowed these creative relationships to grow together and to devise a show that is completely unique.
OneFiveZeroSeven runs until 1 March at the State Theatre Centre of WA Studio Underground. Tickets/info>>