Great White hits the road soon! We caught up with Mikala Westall before she heads out to the south west. Keep an eye out for our interviews with the rest of the cast coming up soon.
RA | What was your first theatrical experience?
MW | When I was in primary school I played Jesus in a recreation of the stages of the cross. It was one of those performances made up of a series of tableaux and the audience had to close their eyes when the bell rang so we could change places. However, my Grandad was filming the whole thing throughout, including the changes. It makes for some very contemporary theatre.
It occurs to me now how morbid it is for a seven year old to emulate being crucified. I took it very seriously at the time.
RA | What are you most excited about for this tour?
MW | Well, firstly, getting the old team back together. The beauty of the script is that it gets better every time. Will is so open to developing the script with everyone and over the years I feel like it has changed slightly every time to reflect our own personalities and strengths as performers.
Plus, I’m super excited for all the mixed Cd’s I’ve made for the drive. I hope everyone likes disco….
RA | What can’t you live without on tour?
MW | I think for this tour in particular the most important items would be a pair of bathers (keeping my fingers crossed for good weather) and a copy of Settlers of Catan (great board game, I’m going to wipe the floor with everyone else).
RA | Have you performed in any of these Venues before?
MW | I’ve never performed regionally before and I’m sorry to say I’ve never seen any theatre in any of the towns we’re visiting! I’m incredibly excited to see all the venues and hopefully have a chat to some of the audience members after the show.
RA | Any local highlights you are keen to visit?
MW | Pretty much any op shop we pass. You can never have too many Kamal vinyls and old lady jumpers.
Sarah Nelson’s Mobile Moments is taking to the road in WA’s South West (along with Barefaced Stories!) to accompany the tour of The Skeletal System’s Great White by Will O’Mahony. These projects will all feature local community members and explore the themes raised the show. Performing Lines WA’s Rachel Audino had a chat with Sarah about the upcoming tour and the origins of show.
RA | Can you tell us a bit about the show and where it all began?
SN | Mobile Moments is a film portraiture project on a bike that was conceived and developed in 2011 for an Artist Residency with DADAA Ltd. in Derby, Kimberley WA. DADAA where so generous in supporting in the concept, investing in the bike and allowing me the freedom to experiment with the idea and explore a place and meet the people for a whole month! The outcome resulted in series of films projected onto the bike as a part of MarshArt Festival. Since then the project has been programmed as a part of Proximity Festival and The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights program.
RA| What do you have planned for the tour and how does it tie in with Great White?
SN | I will be exploring the south west travelling to Mandurah, Albany and Margaret River a week before the Great White performances. So I will be shooting and making the short films in time for screening in the foyers of each venue the show will be performing at.
The experience on the bike has always included the same series of short questions I ask every participant. I will be adding to my wee conversational repertoire to include questions that relate to themes in the show. The short films are a series of shots cut to music and do not include people’s verbal responses, but rather their expressions, reactions and thoughts to these questions and their experience on the bike.
RA | What can’t you live without on tour?
SN | Toothbrush, books, camera, music, and for long tours….movies or the latest TV series addiction!
RA | What location are you most looking forward to visiting? Do you have any other plans whilst on tour?
SN | Them all! I love travelling the south west but I’m particularly looking forward to Albany and the drive to Margaret River.
Formed in 2008, Company Upstairs is a Perth-based project company led by the choreographic and conceptual talent of Bianca Martin. 2014 saw Bianca admitted to the Supreme Court as a Lawyer in Western Australia. She also completed a Residency at Critical Path, Sydney, and a PICA residency on From Afar on a Hill. Since May 2015 Bianca has worked as a Lawyer in the UK. From Afar on A Hill is showing at PICA until 10 October. We caught up with Bianca Martin to chat about the show.
RA | Welcome back to Perth! What were you up to before heading back here?
BM | It’s great to be back seeing so many changes and so much work happening here. I qualified as a lawyer last year, after juggling my law studies with my arts practice, so about 5 months ago I took a job as a solicitor in London. It’s a great small firm where we are encouraged to leave at 5.30pm each day, so luckily I am able to continue making work around that.
RA | Tell us about From Afar on a Hill
BM | After a long road of development, the work has progressed into a performance work about immigration and privilege. We have three superb performers, Bernadette Lewis and Rhiannon Newton who are well known to Perth audiences, and we have added LINK dance company graduate Sarah Chaffey to the team. Our sound artist is Chris Cobilis and he is also a performer in the work.
Its quite an immersive experience for the audience, but nothing to be afraid of. We are hoping that by the audience experiencing the work physically that there is something extra to be gained, a more emotional communication that they receive. The most frightening part for me is is to engage the audience in such an emotional matter. But then we have to remember its only the theatre!
You have been working on this show for a quite some time. Has it shifted from when it waspresented in Copenhagen in 2013?
I had the privilege of working at Copenhagen’s Dansehallerne and being mentored by UK’s Rosemary Butcher as an addition to the activities I already had planned whilst on DCA’s mid-career Fellowship. Making that development was a brilliant learning curve, I worked with two Danish performers and basically let go of all the hang ups I had about having made my performance works in a conservative town. I realised I no longer had to make ‘steps’ and it was like an unbelievable lightbulb moment. The work really started there, and although no choreography has made it through from that development showing, the ideas have certainly been refined from the Dansehallerne showings.
RA | From Afar On A Hill was sparked by the awful Christmas Island boat tragedy in 2010, but the tension around asylum seekers has persisted in Australia to this day. How do you tackle a politically-charged issue like this as an artist?
BM | Well I think what has been made most clear to me through the development period, is that I can only tell my own story. The intention was never to mine for other people’s trauma, but to find a way for someone like myself, reasonably engaged with current affairs, to understand the whole issue of government policy around migration in Australia. I think those tragedies led me to question, what can art do about it, and where do I fit in to that. We have worked with a sociologist from UWA, Farida Fozdar, so the work is grounded in research, but really its about a privileged Australian society, those which come to the theatre, and as an artist that privilege is something you have to concede you are part of. We have wanted the whole time to consider that privilege, and try to access it by giving the audience a visceral experience of how it would feel to lose it.
With the recent publication of tragic images of three year old Alan Kurdi on a beach, it seems like the international conversation has changed. Do you feel that filtering through to Australia?
Things do seem to have shifted. I was in the UK at the time those images were published, and the official reaction there was much like Australia’s has been – we are an island, and so we can stop people coming here. The locals were more welcoming than that of course, but not like in Europe where there is much more of an understanding of being connected through the borders. Whether things are really changing here I’m not sure.
RA | What do you hope people take away from the show?
BM | Well I hope the show gives them an interesting interactive experience to take away. Perhaps it might give the audience an opportunity to consider where they place themselves within the subject matter. But I’m quite happy if they’ve just been engaged during the evening!
Company Upstairs’ From Afar on a Hill
6 – 10 October | PICA Performance Space Tickets/more info>>
We’re very excited to announce we just received word that Sensorium Theatre will be taking Oddysea on the road again thanks to the DCA Boost regional tour funding.
Taking in Mandurah, Bunbury, Esperance, Kalgoorlie, Merredin and Geraldton in 2016, this will be the first time children with special needs in WA will have access to this amazing sensory theatre production.
So excited for Sensorium and the team – big congrats!
Sensorium Theatre has taken over the East Coast with a successful tour of Oddysea at Arts Centre Melbourne and The Sydney Opera House.
Francis Italiano of Sensorium Theatre, shares with us his experience on the Oddysea tour. Below is a snippet into what happened on the tour that he didn’t expect and what was the best pick for food!
Francis Italiano 03/09/2015
As theatre makers, we’re often going on about the transformative power of arts experiences – and Sensorium frequently has observers delighting at the surprising effect of our immersive storyworlds on our young audiences with disabilities. What was particularly exciting in Sydney was seeing the ripple of transformation extending outwards to the circles of carers and other observers who joined our sensory world in different ways. As well as presenting performances at “the house”, our Sydney season saw us deliver outreach workshops to schools across Sydney, joint SOH/MCA masterclasses for both artists with disabilities as well as artists & educators engaging this community and… a hands-on Sensory PD Session for the Opera House Front of House Staff…
The Sydney Opera House is a formidable machine, with hundreds of staff from many areas keeping this icon chugging along, with the Front of House staff usually the first point of contact for anyone looking to be transformed. They’ve already done a lot to improve accessibility to their programme for people with disabilities, but they decided that hosting a company who specifically designs work for this audience was a good opportunity to give their Front of House staff some insight into the kinds of techniques we use to really engage with audiences who often approach things from a different perspective than their usual patrons.
Early in our season, the designated staff members turned up, and for the most part, were up for taking off their shoes, being blindfolded, and taken on a sensory journey by our team. One particularly dapper older European gentlemen, a proud staff member of 30+ years standing, balked at the weirdness of it all, opting to observe from the sidelines and reserve his judgement of what we were all about until he’d seen us in action with the kids in one of the shows. Watching his own personal transformation as he got caught up in the infectious energy of the kids with special needs, experiencing their wonder at the imaginary world he was helping us provide for them, was beautiful. Over the course of the season, he was always one of the first to put on the beach-comber hats we’d brought for the Front of House staff to greet the kids with, each day offering another suggestion of where else in the world we should tour to, and finally coming in one morning excitedly with “Franki! Franki! I haff good idea for next show!” I’d say he was transformed.
We fell in love with the THAI food in Sydney, something that is hard to find authentic exponents of in Perth. Home – around the corner, casual and vibey was yummy, fragrant and surprising and easily the company favourite, suiting our mix of vegetarians and meat lovers. On our final day after completing 3 shows AND a BUMP OUT we headed there for a well-earned feast.
Check out some pictures from the tour and the interview with Francis on ABC Breakfast!
Performing Lines WA delivers the Managing and Producing Services for theatre and dance artists in WA (Maps for Artists), which is a joint initiative of the Australia Council for the Arts, the Australian Government’s art funding and advisory body, and the State of Western Australia through the Department of Culture and the Arts.