Interview: Cicada at Chrissie Parrott Arts Maylands

Posted by Fiona de Garis, October 26th, 2012

Since making the decision to convert a Maylands smash repair shop into a multi-purpose arts space, Chrissie Parrott and Jonathan Mustard have run a handful of exhibitions and experimental music nights showcasing some of Perth’s greatest talents. Predominantly known for making highly theatrical performances, next month marks the duo’s first chance to experiment within the confines of Chrissie Parrott Arts space with the creation of a new site-specific work CICADA. Earlier this week I caught up with Chrissie to find out more.

Words: Sarah Rowbottam (SR) and Chrissie Parrott (CP)

Cicada rehearsals

SR.Cicada is the first site-specific work you have made in your new space. How is it going so far?
CP. We have decided to make a three-act evening and create three totally different experiences for the people who come along. I am enjoying this idea because it gives me a compartment – like series of design images and choreographic aesthetics. I am able to focus on one act at a time rather than looking a full evening work… the venue suggests this to me as each area has its own very strong character.

SR.What inspired you to create the work?
CP. The venue had a lot to do with this – at night the space has a very powerful energy. It had a long life as a smash repair workshop … and now in its new incarnation it feels… well, strangely reborn! I also really wanted to explore the use of projected images again after the success of Metadance. There were certain elements that were untapped in that production and here with Cicada, we can work on those without some of the restraints of theatre.

SR. Most of your recent works, mainly The Garden and Reign, have a distinct theatrical flavour, bringing the absurd, the romantic and otherworldly characters to stage. What can we expect from Cicada?
CP. I especially love the sense of the theatrical and other-worldly …this work is different from those other works .. but as it is, when you have been immersed in a world of ideas around certain elements, some of those ideas chase you.  And sometimes one turns around and sees them again and welcomes them along for the new ride.
We have only just started rehearsals, so we will see what emerges.

SR. Cicada continues your long-term collaboration with composer/ musician Jonathan Mustard. Has the sound of a Cicada love song informed the sound score for the work at all?
CP. Ah! yes, we do have a cicada resident in the space and he/she is very vocal, so we will be sending the courting call back at some point of the night. I was recently introduced to a young composer, Kynan Tan, whose sounds will be incorporated into the show with Jon Mustard’s as well as other electronic music and the sounds of a forest  – an eclectic mix! The acoustics are wonderful in the space too, so we are taking full advantage of this.

SR. Cicada features some of Australia’s most renowned performers – James O’Hara, Kynan Hughes, Floeur Alder, Jacqui Claus, Laura Boynes, Katya Shevtsov, Heather McLachlan, Kynan Tan and Rhiannon Newton. How did you manage to get this incredible team together for Cicada?
CP. You know, there are people who you work with for a short time, or people who you have wanted to work with and sometimes you look at the mix and see the similarities and the differences and how they may enhance your ideas. There are so many brilliant performers around … this particular group were people who were available at this time and interested to explore these ideas with me . I feel very privileged to be working with them all.


SR. What are the positives and negatives of self-presenting?
CP. The negatives of self presenting outweigh the positives simply because of the level of extra work and multi tasking involved, especially when you are also making new work so it is imperative that the scheduling and organization is pulled together very early in the process so that we all have a map to follow. Splitting focus can be quite harrowing but I figure that somehow it all feeds into the work in one way or another.
It also requires that everyone has to take full responsibility for the success of the work. The level of support throughout the team is phenomenal! – very solid! though no one can afford to be complacent .
It is a very powerful and energizing style of working. I think the other hard task is trying to spread the word about that these ventures feed directly back to the artists; I mean that the box office is an even split, so it takes a special commitment  to have that responsibility as a performer as well as performing to your absolute utmost. I wouldn’t recommend it as a way to go. These self-produced works have their own personality  and the truth is, that as a director, I cannot expect this to become a permanent way to make work.

SR. As a current gallery owner, what are your thoughts about Perth Galleries, Gallery East and Gallery Dusseldorf closing their doors in the next year?
CP. I have listened carefully to the why’s and what I am hearing is that the particular galleries were created at a time when the directors where at a different place in their careers and lives. It’s no coincidence that they are all closing at the same time, but many new independent galleries are opening. The facts are that the funding needed to make art and invest in art have changed. There certainly are no less people making art, and some of the new art-makers are really making important work too. I am sad for those galleries, but as I say, I believe that the directors have been involved for a big part of their lives and possibly have new projects in work and in life that hey have decided to follow.

SR. What is life like running an independent arts space in Perth right now?
CP. Our gallery is not a traditional gallery. It is a multi-arts venue – a place to share and play and make new work. We are meeting some amazing folks – both artists and visitors to the space.
Often when you make work in the theatre you don’t get a chance to meet your audiences where as when you are in an open gallery space there is often more time to talk about the work and listen to feedback. So far, it is proving extremely satisfying.

1 – 17 November 2013
Chrissie Parrott Arts – 4 Sussex Street, Maylands
Book tickets

Featuring James O’Hara, Kynan Hughes, Floeur Alder, Jacqui Claus, Laura Boynes, Katya Shevtsov, Heather McLachlan, Kynan Tan, Rhiannon Newton
Session times: Preview: 8pm Thurs 1 Nov
Opening Night 8pm Fri 2 Nov, 8pm Sat 3 Nov, 8pm Sun 4 Nov, 8pm Thurs 8 Nov, 8pm Fri 9 Nov, 8pm Sat 10 Nov, 8pm Sun 11 Nov, 8pm Thurs 15 Nov, 8pm Fri 16 Nov, 10pm Fri 16 Nov, 8pm Sat 17 Nov, 10pm Sat 17 November
Seating is limited of per session!

Interview: Chrissie Parrott

Posted by Morgan Leek, August 13th, 2012

One of the biggest issues facing any  independent West Australian artist is the lack affordable and accessible venues to create and show their work. So much so that renowned choreographer Chrissie Parrott and composer/sound artist Jonathan Mustard have the  taken slightly ambitious step of opening up their own multi purpose art, workshop, gallery and performance space in Maylands – just a ten minute drive from Perth’s CBD. Last week I (Tom) headed out to The Chrissie Parrott Art Space and caught up with Chrissie herself to find out all about the new space and her plans for an exciting group show at the end of the year.

Image supplied by Chrissie Parrott

Words: Tom Cramond (TC), Chrissie Parrott (CP)
Images: Tom Cramond 

TC. Why as an independent artist do you need a space like this?

CP. I’ve wanted  space like this for 30 years really, because as you may be aware I used to have a professional company and we were always renting space so you never had that sense of security. More recently because I’ve been dabbling in visual arts and prop making I decided it was time stretch my wings a little bit and be able to make a mess and not have to clean it up everyday! So I started looking for a space two years ago.  I was looking for a semi residential space with some kind of a workshop and that proved to be very expensive. I looked around O’Connor, Bibra Lake and far and wide because I didn’t think I would find anything close to the city. I even tried Osborne Park, but I found it was too industrial or too corporate industrial. Eventually I saw this space online and I just loved the front of it!

I drove past the place, looked in the window and there was just this big empty space and I just fell in love with it. I remember showing it to a few colleagues and when they saw the space they just went quiet – I think they though the space was too big to deal with, but it’s remarkable how quickly it fills up.

Also I’m at that place at my life and at my career where I’m very excited about the idea of presenting other people’s work. But I dont want to go into a formal (role) becoming a producer so I thought curating is the next best thing. I have a lot of friends from overseas as well and it is easy to bring artwork to another country through digital means.

On top of all of that Jonathan and I are still experimenting with our own digital display work (large scale projections) and it’s very difficult to find a space for that. If you don’t get funded you end up not doing anything. This  means that with the space even if we don’t get funded we can still continue with our work until we get the funding that we need, so it gives us incentive. Though you have to work hard in a space like this because it is still a business.

TC. How has working in this space helped you as an artist?

CP. One of the most important things about the space for both Jonathan and myself is that it can transform. Presently it has the gallery (approx 100sqm) with the artist studios and event space. However we are thinking in two years  why not pull all this infrastructure down – because it is all just smoke and mirrors really – and open it up as a big space potentially for site specific and performance based work.


TC. Are you and Jonathan running the space entirely by yourselves?

CP. I did a business course last year and Jonathan is doing the same course now and this means both of us are taking responsibility for this new business venture. Jonathan is called the ‘Space Man’ because he does all the space management out the back, and I’m doing the gallery management out the front. We’ve done all of this single handedly, all the infrastructure and everything we’ve built ourselves. It took a little bit of time but it’s been so rewarding watching the space change. It feels beautiful in here –  it has lots of character.

The property itself has a five year lease. When we spoke to the owner originally he was a bit worried about what we were going to do – “how can you make a gallery? It’s so grimy and messy in here!”.But we had a vision. And when  he came the other day he couldn’t believe it. We had to get an industrial cleaner to remove all the oil (the building used to be a panel beaters) but the great thing is that it feels like we’re always in the theatre.

TC. What have some of the challenges have been?

CP. When we were setting up the space we had to go and speak to the council (City of Bayswater) as the building is still classified as commercial. We went along a bit nervously – with my tap shoes in my pocket! – and we did a presentation in front of the council and they were absolutely fantastic, a unanimous vote of support. Do it, Go for it! I was a little nervous to begin with, but in the end they were fantastic and really quite vocal about their support for the project.

Right now one of the biggest challenges is making sure that we become visible, making sure we get our story out there onto the street and allow people to find out we’re here. Ultimately because it’s a business we have to make sure we have some kind of income coming into the space.


TC. And lastly, what can you tell us about your upcoming 12/12/12 project?

CP. I’m always looking for an angle on an event, and I’ve known about the triplicate (12/12/12) for a long time – It’s the last one for 88 years certainly the last one while we’re alive. I just thought it was a great angle. On the walls we are having 12×12 inch artworks (and I am being very specific about that) and we are doing a series of 12 minute performances from 12:12 am to 12 midnight the following day.

We’re having film, live performance (including specific, small scale dance), standup comedy and electro accoustic music. Already we have a quite a few artists and acts lined up which is really exciting. People can come and see a couple of performances, make their way out the back to watch some footage, maybe have 12 biscuits – who knows!

CALL OUT for work

Chrissie Parrott Arts is hosting a 12-hour event presenting film, artworks and live performance on Dec 12 2012 at 12.12pm till 12 minutes to 12pm. We are looking for expressions of interest from artists to show work at the new gallery + screen space in Maylands. Please submit your ideas to Chrissie Parrott Arts email below by the deadline, August 31.

Type of works we are looking for include:

Music Electro acoustic or acoustic x 4, 6, or 12mins duration performance Poetry, Monologue, Duologue, Solo dance, Duo dance x 4, 6, or 12mins duration film & video 4, 6, or 12mins duration, performance art 4, 6, or 12mins duration, 2d artworks 12×12 (inches); any medium (e.g. photo, digital art, painting, mixed media, illustration) framed, stretched, or mounted.

Full details can be found here. 

Visit Chrissie Parrott Arts at 4 Sussex Street, Maylands, WA. Open: Wed to Fri 12 – 5pm  Sunday 12 – 4pm

Chrissie Parrott Performance Company (formerly Jambird) was founded by Chrissie Parrott – a highly prolific, multi-award winning dance choreographer, and Jonathan Mustard – an experienced composer, working with computer music, visual arts and animation.Together they create hybrid performance works which are highly theatrical and often merge dance with theatre, visual arts, and live music. Chrissie Parrott is a core artist with Performing Lines WA.



Reign development: Interview with performer Rhiannon Newton

Posted by Morgan Leek, August 3rd, 2011

Rhiannon Newton is one of eight performers currently working with Chrissie Parrott Performance Company on the development of Reign – a new multi-art production bringing the artwork of Patrick Doherty to the stage. A trained dancer, Rhiannon has worked internationally and nationally with some of the worlds most radical choreographers and artists. For Reign, Rhiannon transforms from dancer to hyena.

Words: Sarah Rowbottam and Rhiannon Newton

SR.First up, briefly tell me about yourself.

RN.I come from a small town in NSW called Crescent Head. I studied dance at WAAPA from 2004 to 2007. I’ve since lived and worked in Amsterdam and Tel Aviv and at the moment I’m in Perth working across a couple of projects including Reign.

SR.In a few sentences, what is your character in Reign?

RN.My character is called the hyena, but basically i feel like she is the embodiment of the beast or the evil in the extremity of each character… kind of the extreme evolution or mutation brought about by the dying Earth. She has moments of almost remembering her former human self but is largely driven by primal instincts and a need to survive in the barren “Reign” landscape.

SR.How do you prepare for creative development and the exploration of your character before and during development? Did you do anything specific for Reign?

RN.A bit of you-tubing of hyena’s for movement ideas. Chrissie and I spent a week out in the salt lakes in the Goldfields on another projects called Parched and that was interesting gestation time for both of us, to be drowned in the mass and emptiness of such spaces. Chrissie works really visually and there’s often quite a bit of online back and forth with images which I find quite stimulating entry points for character development…. and of course with this project Patrick’s images have been a huge influence and inroad for our characters.

SR.How has this development been different to Stage One development back in November?

RN.Stage one was really a coming together of the many different bodies of the Reign creative team and it was really a process of trialling ideas. In this stage we have the idea and are unfurling/building a world that communicates it.

SR.I imagine in a development process, each day would be fairly different from the last. Briefly take me through one of your favourite days thus far.

RN.Well yesterday was a long one. We are 3 days out from the showing and we just did the first full run through. We had the entire cast in the studio today plus all the behind the scenes creative team which was great and we actually developed two new scenes that will end the work (at this point). The show is a series of little acts some more danced, some more spoken, so rehearsals are quite complex in that we have concentrated sessions with Chrissie to develop and refine our individual bits and then time around to solidify them for ourselves.

SR.I know you have worked on a few different projects with Chrissie recently, one being a short dance film shot in Menzies, Lake Ballard. What has your experience being like working with Chrissie across various projects and what are you hoping to learn from working with her during Reign?

RN.What I love about working with Chrissie is the creativity she demands from us and the opportunity she gives us to dive into / inhabit this ulterior world she is creating. Reign is particularly interesting for me because it involves a lot of very talented and experienced artists from dance, theatre and the visual arts and that is a very rich, challenging and stimulating environment to be working in daily.

SR.Like many of the dancers in this production you bring a significant amount of international and national dance experience to the project. How do you feel the Australian (and particularly the Western Australian) dance is seen in wider society compared to other countries? If you had a magic wand, what would you change?

RN.I would maybe fast forward ten years. I think it’s on track we’re just a bit, well quite behind. But really the dancers / performers coming out of here (WAAPA) are so strong at the moment, I think it’s quite exciting, and we are starting to have the right structures in place for quality work to be made and with ongoing support and hard work we hopefully will arrive, someday, at a point where the whole system is more robust and functional and WA audiences have a real sense of pride in the work created here.


Reign by Chrissie Parrott Performance Company is currently in Stage 2 & 3 development
at  MosArts Hall until Saturday 6 August 2011. Read more about Reign here.
This development has been supported by the Western Australian Theatre Development Initiative.

Rhiannon Newton completed her Bachelor of Arts and Honours in Dance at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2007. As a dancer she has worked for Jan Fabre / Troubleyne (Belgium 2008), Anouk van Dijk (The Netherlands 2008), Odelya Kupperberg (Israel 2009) and Machol Shalem (Israel 2010). She is currently based in Western Australia working in various independent projects with Chrissie Parrott Performance Company, Jonathan Buckles, Jo Pollitt and Aimee Smith.  Rhiannon will perform The Check Point Solo, directed by Jo Pollitt in the 2011 Brisbane Festival’s Under The Radar.

Reign Stage 3 Development

Posted by Morgan Leek, July 13th, 2011

Chrissie Parrott Performance Company is currently in Stage 3 creative development for Reign at MosArts Hall in Mosman Park. Reign brings together an exceptional creative team of Western Australian artists – Patrick Doherty (Visual Artist), Reg Cribb (Writer), Jonathan Mustard (Composer) and Chrissie Parrott (Director/Choreographer).  They are supported by a raft of wonderful performers and other creative and production personnel. In this stage the artistic team will workshop the sound, movement, script, characters and design developed in Stage 2 with eight performers – Kate Hall, George Shevtsov, Claudia Alessi, Rhiannon Newton, Russell Leonard, Kirsty Hillhouse, Tom Penney and Scott Ewen.

Throughout Stage 2 the core artists have been making work in responsive cycles. Now Chrissie takes over as Director. During this third stage her mission is work with the performers; exploring ways to bring all the material together on the floor. What to keep? What to put together? What hasn’t been created yet?

The following photos were taken during a rehearsal run on Wednesday 6 July 2011.

Photos: Sarah Rowbottam

To read about Stage 1 Development of Reign click here.

The Stage 3 Development of Reign is supported by the Western Australian Theatre Development Initiative (WATDI).

Meeting the creatives behind Kings and Queens

Posted by Morgan Leek, November 18th, 2010

Words & Photos: Sarah Rowbottam

Yesterday I was more than happy to step away from my computer and take a trip to CIA studios to see what the core creatives for Kings and Queens (working title) had been up to over the past two weeks.

After hearing murmurs from Fiona about their movements, it was no surprise to see that Chrissie Parrott (Director/ Choreographer), Reg Cribb (Writer), Jonathan Mustard (Sound Composition) and Patrick Doherty (Visual Artist) had definitely taken hold of the space. Walking into ‘the hub’ I was met by half painted canvases, half empty red bull cans, and a half dressed artist – Patrick Doherty.

Reign development Photo: Sarah Rowbottam

Far from coy, Doherty had been working hard (to the beats of hip hop) on producing three amazing large backdrops for the Kings and Queens showing next week. As the visual artist for Kings and Queens, Patrick’s work has been the catalyst for the first stage creative development, with Reg, Chrissie and Jon all creating content in response to his canvases and characters. If you are not familiar with Patrick’s work, click here for some examples.

Reign development Photo: Sarah Rowbottam

Next stop was Studio Four, where the windows were laced with the most exquisite costumes, and Chrissie and Jon were busily working on sound and direction. The costumes (finished with intricate appliqués and embroidery), together with some incredible head pieces, were on loan from the WA Ballet – and were the perfect adornment for any king or queen.
Photo: Sarah Rowbottam

At 3pm the cast turned up for the first official meet and greet. We were taken on a tour by Chrissie to see some of Patrick’s work, hear Reg’s script and listen to Jonathan’s sound effects and music. I was amazed how much these guys had achieved in less than eight days.

Next week the team of four will become fifteen as they kick start their third and final week of development at King Street Arts Centre. Luckily for me they will be right upstairs, so expect daily updates on what they get up to.

Reign development Photo: Sarah Rowbottam

Reign development Photo: Sarah Rowbottam

Reign development Photo: Sarah Rowbottam

Reign development Photo: Sarah Rowbottam

Find out more about Kings and Queens (working title) by clicking here.