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>>
Posted by admin, February 13th, 2014
Will O’Mahony had a breakthrough year in 2013, with two sellout productions at The Blue Room Theatre with his company The Skeletal System – The Improved (as part of Fringe World 2013) and Great White – and a swag of award wins and nominations, including five Equity Award nominations for Best Production, Best Director and Best Actor. Thom Smyth (TS) caught up with him as Great White returns to Perth stages at PICA Performance Space for The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights at Fringe World. Great White runs until Saturday 15 February.
TS | Great White is resurfacing for Fringe World 2014 at PICA. How has it changed since its original season at The Blue Room Theatre?
WO’M | I’ve just tweaked the given circumstances so that every character shares a relationship with the play’s central question: Is it ever ok to take the life of another? There are of course minor changes throughout the script and design, but I think Great White is now the play it was always trying to be.
TS | Young love vs a fin. Does it stay strong when a hungry fish approaches?
WO’M | I think we take terms like love for granted. Maybe we need more hungry fish to test love, and our definitions of it. Maybe love should be as scary as a fin – if you’re doing it right.
TS | What is ‘greatness’ to you? Does this idea play a lot on your mind?
WO’M | There’s this quote that I can’t quite get out of my head and it goes something like this: Don’t be surprised when the kindest act toward you in your life comes from an outsider not interested in reciprocation. I’ve been wondering for a long time whether greatness can be as simple as acknowledging that that person over there is just as real as you.
TS | Sharks are a hot topic at the moment. How do you navigate the hype surrounding this politically-charged subject?
WO’M | The play was written well before the shark culling controversy surfaced so I feel it remains artistic rather than intellectualised or deliberately political. I want art that tilts, that offers a different perspective. If Great White prompts audiences to reconsider their position on this issue then it has done one of its jobs.
TS | Creating an entirely aquatic environment within the confines of a very landlocked theatre venue is no mean feat. How did you approach this unique design challenge?
WO’M | I’m a firm believer in using the theatre to awaken and empower the imaginations of the audience. We needed something that looked like water, moved like water, sounded like water, but wasn’t water. When designer Alicia Clements presented me with a bag of blue balloons I knew she’d found our set.
TS | You’ve been named as someone to watch in 2014. Is that a big burden of expectation or a door-opening blessing?
WO’M | I think I’m now old enough to appreciate that the doors you speak of never open easy. You’ve still got to boot them hard and hope you won’t break your foot. But it’s nice to know that there are people who believe in my work and development and if anything I don’t want to embarrass them by taking any of this for granted.
Great White runs until Saturday 15 February at PICA Performance Space.
Posted by admin, January 30th, 2014
It’s that time of year – FRINGE WORLD 2014 is here and two of our artists have exciting shows coming up – The Skeletal System’s Great White and Sally Richardson’s new work Rites.
Sally gives us the lowdown on all things fringe and why she’s dead keen on Dying To Dance.
I love that Fringe World feeling! Perth’s Fringe is one of the best ‘newish’ fun times of the calendar. As a local artist it’s a time to get out and about, see as much of the array of evocative and exotic as you can, and for quite a few of us to get down and dirty and make something new, raw, and maybe a little edgy.
It’s where we can play, explore and experiment with new ideas and possibilities, with a willing audience who is prepared for us to try anything and everything!
It has a rough and ready sideshow do-it-yourself energy; rehearsals are held where you can beg and borrow space, often sweating it out in various hot boxes. The set is probably borrowed, if you have one at all, flyers are flung at friends and relatives, and the social media frenzy is going off. Everyone is doing everyone a favour or two… Not only are we making, we are partaking, and the artistic frenzy flows day and night through the hottest months of the year. But oh Fringe World we are so glad you are here!
I am once again thrilled and delighted to be a part of this artistic feastfest, and in particular to be collaborating with a dedicated and committed team of artists in Laura Boynes, Kynan Hughes, Natalie Allen, Stefan and Yvan Karlsson and the inimitable Joe Lui, all amazing individuals giving of their time and bodies over these hot summer holiday months to create our new show Rites: Dying to Dance. Everyone has pitched in; writing, improvising, choreographing, feeding ideas, music, and their unstoppable energy. I am always exhilarated, excited, and terrified by the creative process, and yet with this crew its been a ball…literally!
Given the part-time nature of things, and the timeframe and resources, it’s a first-stage development, yet with the rawness and wildness of discovering and uncovering things on your feet, and in the moment. I think Fringe audiences get this and embrace it fully. And this is the exciting part, for our studio is alive, as the creative voices of our audience get to have their say right at the very beginning of this new work’s life! And we have the opportunity to respond, shifting and changing the work each night, as we hit the ‘court” for another match…and ‘game–on’ with our audience
Why Rite of Spring?
The original Rite of Spring (created for the Ballet Russes, composed by Stravinksy and choreographed by Nijinsky, premiering in 1913) has been an inspiration in many ways. Perhaps what inspired me most as I began to research this ground-breaking work (with both the score and the choreography as direct reference points), was the perceived challenge to traditional dance and music forms of that time. It caused an almost ‘riot in the theatre’, so stunned and appalled were the Opening Night audience by what they were seeing and hearing. We might be hard pushed to repeat this particular audience response, but who knows…?
What is also interesting is how the story narrative, composition and design of the original production are inspired by the folk world of ordinary people. In a contemporary context such a popular form of inspiration might as well be sport… The theme of rites of passage, life-cycles of players, of the inevitable sacrifices, of winners, losers…its all there!
Now, as to our version? Sport and dance do have so much in common, add some object theatre (basketballs and fitballs) and a team of would-be champions…and it makes for a night of competition, drama and high stakes, with some irreverent fun to be had…all in true Fringe World style. See you courtside!
Rites: Dying To Dance
4 – 9 Feb // 7.30pm
Chrissie Parrott Arts // 4 Sussex Street, Maylands
Preview: Tues 4 Feb // Tickets: $15
Wed 5 – Sun 9 Feb // Tickets: $20
Posted by admin, November 27th, 2013
Sensorium Theatre’s co-artistic director, Francis Italiano, takes us through the background behind their new interactive performance for children with special needs – Oddysea.
Words: Francis Italiano Photo: Ashley de Prazer
In our previous show, The Jub Jub Tree, young audiences with special needs relished feeling grass and dirt underfoot in our luscious multi-sensory forest, and delighted in joining the animals they met who lived there. Encouraging them to be active participants in, rather than passive recipients of, the story became for us the cornerstone of Sensorium Theatre’s approach to “immersive” performance. In creating our new show ‘Oddysea’, the company was keen to explore this idea further and make the audience’s interactive experience even more dynamic and kinetic – not only taking them on a narrative journey, but seeing how we could enable them to undertake a physical journey of their own.
An odyssey is a journey or quest – traditionally heroic by nature – with one or more main characters reaching a goal after overcoming trials along the way…
For many of our audience, some of whom have little or no movement and are unable to speak, just getting through a single day can require heroic efforts. How then, to convey a sense of fun and adventure in a journey that they could be part of? Given Sensorium’s method of using sensory stimuli to create cognitive “ins” to a story for our audience within an immersive setting, we began to think about where we’d like that journey to take them, and what kind of sensory delights we might like to offer them along the way? Being a Fremantle-based company, we ended up at The Sea…
So, in Oddysea, we’ve invited children with special needs to come on a journey to explore the sights, sounds, textures, smells and tastes of the oceanic world, and revel in the sensuous joy of sun, sand and sea while encountering some of the beautiful, extraordinary and truly odd characters and creatures who call the sea home.
For the Creative Development of this new show, the company undertook what we now plan to be a template for making our future new works; that is, after an initial brainstorming period for the creative team to establish our framework and objectives, we went on to directly collaborate with a representative spectrum of our intended audiences for the rest of the devising and creation period. Basing ourselves at Kenwick School for the duration of the development over a whole term, we alternated artists’ collaborative devising days with hands-on workshop-style days with the kids and staff in a kind of experiential dramaturgy -where we trialed different story ideas, variations of the live original music and instrumentation, and prototypes of interactive props, puppets and settings with them – adjusting, tweaking, jettison-ing and re-inventing based on their responses and direct feedback. The usually exciting collaborative experience of a creative development was amplified incredibly by having the kids in on the process – if an idea was a dud, then the audible “thud” when it crashed was totally palpable from our harshest critics, but if an idea had wings, then watching it soar, propelled by their enthusiasm, was beyond beautiful. Several of the songs from the score were inspired by the kids and the ending was directly influenced by one class in particular. It seems so obvious in retrospect, but what better way to fashion immersive worlds than to interact directly with the audience you want to invite into them as you are creating them?
Working with the kids in a mock-up of our proposed set, using approximations of the final puppets and props, also allowed us to tackle the practical question of how best to physically convey a journey. Since many of our audience have limited physical mobility, in “Oddysea” we’ve explored “bringing” the journey to them, at times using happily old-school theatre techniques such as “travelling” set-pieces and puppets/performers past them, and at others taking them on mini-promenades – literally propelling them along the slippery gold-satin “sand” if necessary. Wherever possible, children are taken out of their wheelchairs. In the finished version of the show, as we set off from the beach and the kelp-lined rock pools of the shoreline recede, accompanied by sea-shell rattles and steel-drum conch-shells, our principal characters, Crab & Turtle, encourage the audience to go ever further on their Oddysea. Having taken us up on our offer, the kids are treated to multiple transformations of the space before the tactile extravaganza of a crocheted coral reef unfurls before them and they arrive at their destination.
The journey the audience and artists take together is truly an odyssey. After such a rich development, enthusiastic test audiences and a promising start to our pilot tour, we decided our preferred mode of transportation – sensory stimuli, imaginary play, and intimate immersive interaction – is the only way to travel!
The Sensorium Theatre artists are highly skilled in working with children with special needs. Audience size is limited to 12 so that individual learning abilities can be catered for and experiences can be maximised. Performing Lines WA can create a performance package tailored to your needs, from the full 7-day residency to a one-off performance.
2013 School Tour: Kalamunda ESC and Sir David Brand School
2014 School Tour: Malibu School, Gladys Newton School, Carson Street School, Durham Road School, Creaney ESC, Beldon ESC, Merriwa ESC, Gwynne Park ESC
Please note there are no public performances of Oddysea. If you would like Sensorium Theatre to visit your school, please contact email@example.com to discuss the range of residency and performance packages.
Posted by admin, November 6th, 2013
We have a soft spot for the team behind Standing Bird 2. Not only have we had the pleasure of working with the entire creative team individually on other projects – we worked alongside Sally, Danielle and Jacqui on the first iteration of Standing Bird for their premiere season in 2012 during Summer Nights and Fringe World. Billed as a bravura solo performance by Jacqui Claus (2012 Dance Australia Critics Choice – Most Outstanding Female Dancer), Standing Bird 2 has been re-structured, re-visioned and refined for Season Two at The Blue Room Theatre. We talk to Director and Performing Lines WA core artist Sally Richardson about what to expect.
Words: Sarah Rowbottam (SR) and Sally Richardson (SallyR)
Photos: Ashley de Prazer
SR. You did it once, why do it again?
SallyR. You return to a work determined to make it better, and to resolve and refine your concept and your ideas. The initial devising space is such a different experience, with a high degree of uncertainty and is always limited by the time and resources available to you. Fringeworld was a perfect environment to show the work at an early stage, in a performance framework that is about experimentation, exploration, and testing your ideas for the first time with an audience who is also excited by the rawness and freshness of the work. The original presentation also incorporated a number of ideas, and story lines I had been working with on and off over a few years. Standing Bird 2 is a synergy and synthesis of those ideas into a single narrative and ‘voice’, co-created and performed by and for dancer Jacqui Claus.
SR. What have been some exciting developments with the next iteration of the work?
SallyR. The work has been re-structured, re-visioned and refined, with some additional new material developed and scored. The new design created by Fiona Bruce and Lauren Ross is bold and contemporary and locates the work in a different context and audience configuration. We also re-shot all the film sections exclusively with Jacqui, and these appear on a range of screens in and around The Blue Room (check out the Cultural centre screen as you make your way to the Theatre). We have also incorporated The Blue Room bar as a performance space, so yes on many levels if feels like a ‘new’ work. (My previous role as a somewhat shadowy presence in the work has also been erased – thankfully)!
SR. What is personal about the story?
SallyR. For me all creative work is personal to a degree…This work is also inspired by many things, including what is a solo? What is a self-portrait? What is particular to this form, and this solo journey that we all experience…Reflection and self-reflection are key concepts, as are both physical and psychological notions of re-framing, reviewing, re-membering, and re-visioning..How we move through time and space, both physically and mentally, backwards and forwards (as does the reflective gaze) …It is interesting in the process of re-visiting this work, the theme of re-construction, re-collection, re-covery and review is central. What is retained, what is rejected, what is re-formed…through the journey of performance making, as in life ,there is a constant editing, of the story. In SB2 as this lone woman moves through landscapes (emotional territories) she recognises herself while also rejecting parts of herself, shedding skins and layers. The idea of metamorphosis and transformation are central. In this version there is always choice (made by her-self)…and ultimately one arrives at a space where there is release and revelation. It is about the pursuit of self awareness, from an initial self consciousness…a process of moving from who am I? to a claimed space of I am…here present and before you in the immediate now..The interior is made exterior and vise versa through fragmentation, re-fraction, and re-formation..The keynote is the gestural, as motifs recur and return moving from the minutae through to the epic..a moment amplifies and echoes, is refracted and re-framed by repetition. …A solo is always about the performer, and as the dancer’s body is ultimately their own unique voice, Standing Bird 2 is also Jacqui’s. It has been created and framed by her own physicality and dance vocabulary, and so it uniquely hers, and hers alone.
SR. As a movement based performance, how have you (as the Director) worked alongside and in collaboration with Choreographer Danielle Micich?
SallyR. Danielle, Jacqui and I collaborate as a team. We each bring a different element to this creative dialogue, and there is a trust and mutual understanding that comes from having worked with each other over many years. Danielle defines herself as a movement director, and her and Jacqui have now collaborated on a range of projects, so there is an efficiency and clarity to their communication. I am there driving the sense of overarching narrative, intention and through line, and commenting, questioning and adjusting what is generated. We all know what we want to create, and the outcome we want to achieve, and it has felt very simpatico in this process. It is exciting to be working together with Dank and Jacqui right now, as both in their own way are professionally at the top of their game, and with that there is a confidence and ease, and sense of play in the creative space that is delicious.
SR. What’s great about presenting Standing Bird 2 in The Blue Room Theatre’s season two?
SallyR. The Blue Room Theatre is a fantastic venue and hub for original new work, and it has a strong audience base and great team that support this focus. To be able to present two new dance works (SB2 + Verge) in such an intimate venue is exciting, as we believe this will give the audience a dynamic performance experience, as it is a rare opportunity to view dance in such close proximity. To also have an almost 3 week season for 2 new contemporary dance works is almost unheard of in Perth, due to high cost of suitable venues. We believe this gives us an opportunity to develop new audiences, and the season duration gives a chance for word of mouth to build, and hopefully we can sell out!!
SR. How did you become a Director?
SallyR. I wanted to. Practice makes perfect. I am still practicing.
SR. Why do you make work in Perth?
SallyR. I make work in Perth as it is my home, and the home of my children. I also have some strong ongoing creative relationships here with other artists and collaborators that have developed and grown over many years. We are a dynamic and diverse creative community and I think we are good at making our own opportunities to showcase our ideas and work. I do enjoy also working in other cities/places, and enjoy the dialogue with other artists from around the country. Living and working in such a remote city as Perth it is essential to travel and see and make work in other environments.
SR.Who do you dream of working with one day?
SallyR. That list is long.
Standing Bird 2 Showing at The Blue Room Theatre
12 – 29 November 2013
The Blue Room Theatre
53 James Street
Perth Cultural Centre
Northbridge WA 6003
Featuring: Jacqui Claus // Director + Concept: Sally Richardson // Movement Director: Danielle Micich // Assistant Director: Katya Shevtsov // Vision Design + Film Production + Editor: Ashley de Prazer // Set + Costume Design: Fiona Bruce // Sound design + Production: Joe Lui + Kingsley Reeve // Lighting Design: Joe Lui // Dramaturg: Humphrey Bower + Sally Richardson