Posted by Thom Smyth, 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 Morgan Leek, May 10th, 2012
I thought I would use my opportunity to contribute to the PLWA blog, to perhaps shed some light on the process of creating a new work.
I often have a really hard time explaining to people what I actually do when I get together with my buddies to devise a show. ‘What’s devising?’ they say and I think they have visions of me sitting in the hustle and bustle of an office, maybe the open plan newsroom of Lois Lane’s The Daily Planet, continually tearing pieces of paper out of my typewriter and balling it up before throwing it in the overflowing waste paper basket beside my desk, beads of sweat gathering on my forehead as my director walks by and says ‘you gonna reach that deadline, Daff? The company is counting on you!’ But, in reality when you work with Side Pony Productions, it’s way better than that. We wear silly costumes and even sillier wigs, draw all over A3 paper in Sharpie texta and drink an alarming amount of Diet Coke. Confused? Yeah I fear I lost you when I mentioned Lois Lane, so with the help of PLWA, I’m just going to show you through pictures what happened when Zoe Pepper (director and our fearless leader), Tim Watts (idiot extraordinaire) Eden Falk (our new recruit) and me, Adriane Daff (self confessed Diet Coke addict) got together for two and a half weeks to devise our new show, Wives of Hemingway…
Photos by Sarah Rowbottam
Image #1 This is me, playing one of our characters, Catherine. This picture is a great example of me adopting the ‘silly wig’ part of the devising process. I like this part very much because I get to see what I would look like with a different haircut and wearing a wig makes us all act like completely different, completely weird people. I honestly think this is the basic principle that all fancy dress parties rely on and it works a treat.
Image #2 Here’s me again (as Catherine) and Tim Watts (as Wilson). We are on our honeymoon and in this improvisation you can see us clearly acting ‘very much in love’. Improvisation is a really important part of our process and Zoe is one of those great directors that will let us go on for (sometimes) hours in an improvisation if we are on a particularly good streak. Improvising with Tim is also especially wonderful because he is always willing to go to very, very bizarre places with me that defy all reason and logic (and normally never make it into the final show.)
Image #3 Now, here’s Eden playing Helen. We play around with gender in Wives of Hemingway so male actors can play females and vice versa. This ends up being quite an important performance element of the show and this photo is a good example of Eden playing his best lady, whilst also finding the time to look fine in a dress and wig!
Image #4 Oh yes, this is definitely me trying not to laugh. I have all different ways to stop myself corpsing (a terrible habit of mine) here it looks as though I’m trying to push the smile off of my face. It’s kind of working a bit I guess? I blame Tim. I remember during this process driving home from rehearsals, crying with laughter in my car over some of the things he had said in improvisations that day and attracting all sorts of strange looks from people. I’m pretty sure I even cried from laughter in the rehearsal that these photos are from; my body gets so confused that I just start crying! Eden seems to have more control than me, I could learn a thing or two from him, believe me…
Image #5 But it’s not all silliness and in-jokes and me getting hysterical, I assure you. A lot research and reading happened before we even got into the rehearsal room and we sat down for a while with our big bits of paper and textas and plotted out exactly what we wanted to have happen, based on the conversations we had and the direction our improvisations were going in. Here it looks like we are trying to figure out how to bring one of those plot points to life.
Image #6 Side Pony have never done a work about a real life person, let alone one who carries such a tremendous amount of fame and legacy as Mr. Ernest Hemingway. He led such a wild life filled to the brim with so many of the things that make for great theatre, so even though it seemed a big challenge we couldn’t resist having a crack. I think we spent about half of one day feeling a bit nervous about what we were ‘saying’ about Hemingway until we threw all those feelings away and remembered that we were setting out to make a great piece of entertaining theatre and not a biopic. That certainly made it a lot easier to be so irreverent and really set us free to do whatever we liked.
Image #7 Playing around with hunting (which Hemingway loved so much) gave us lots of interesting things to think about thematically but it was also just really fun to pretend to be on safari. We had some great guns made for us by Nathan Nisbet and we also used them in our first photo shoot for the show, snapped by the very talented David Collins. We like to use them every chance we can get during rehearsal but it looks like Tim missed out on this occasion. There’s one gun that has a gold barrel and the three of us always fight over who gets to use that one. Very mature. Zoe, wisely, always manages to stay out of it.
Image #8 So there you go…a visual explanation of sorts of devising the Side Pony way. I hope some things were made clear and I’m sure lots of things remain shrouded in mystery, or maybe just plain old disbelief. Thanks for reading and we all really look forward to bringing Wives of Hemingway to a stage near you very soon!
Adriane Daff Performer
Adriane Daff completed a BA in Theatre Arts at the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts in 2004. It was during her time at WAPPA that she first met Zoe Pepper and worked with her in 2005 on the devised production of Motor City Blues. After a successful Perth season this show was renamed Motor City Blues and was performed as a part of the Adelaide Fringe festival in 2006. From this point on Adriane has continued to work with Side Pony Productions on a variety of shows such as Scarecrow (winner of the Blue Room Judge’s Choice award in 2006), The Manic Pony and most recently, The Pride (winner of the Blue Room member’s award and Blue Room Judge’s choice in 2010). After it’s season at the Blue Room in 2009, The Pride was performed at Brisbane’s Under the Radar festival and as a part of Perth Theatre Company’s season in 2010. Adriane is currently co-writing the Guess Who Project with Zoe.
Posted by Morgan Leek, April 26th, 2012
Perth Director Zoe Pepper is currently in creative lock down developing Side Pony Productions new work The Wives of Hemingway. Along with fellow raconteurs Tim Watts (Alvin Sputnik), Adriane Daff (The Pride) and Eden Falk (POST) the Side Pony team will be holding a public rehearsal of this exciting new work on Saturday 28 April at the Midland Arts Junction.
Performing Lines WA recently had a chat with Zoe to find out more.
Words: Tom Cramond (TC) and Zoe Pepper (ZP)
Images: David Collins, Sarah Rowbottam and Adriene Daff
TC. We are very exciting to be working with you on the first stage development of The Wives of Hemingway. Can you give me a brief rundown of your thoughts behind this new work?
ZP. At the outset we wanted to make a play about some of Ernest Hemingway’s dramatic marriages that ended rather spectacularly.
TC. Ernest Hemingway is somewhat of a polarising character in popular literature, as to is his personal life. Have you always been attracted to his work? And what sort of research has gone into its creation so far?
ZP. Hemingway is pretty new for me. It was a little overwhelming the amount of reading that could be done in preparation for this project. I waded through a fair old chunk of it but things are getting pretty abstracted in the rehearsal room.
TC. I absolutely adore the promotional images taken by David Collins. What were the inspirations behind the images and how did they come about?
ZP. I wanted the promo images to capture the overt theatricality of the show, I think they do that pretty well.
TC. The whole concept of a ‘theatre development’ is something many readers may not be familiar with. Can you give a brief rundown of why you are undertaking this process and what exactly goes on during the workshop?
ZP. This development is really to figure out what the show is about. The way I work is a little risky, we started the development with what we know about Hemingway from research but knowing that we really didn’t want to attempt any kind of legitimate biography.
We do extended improvisations to generate characters and then try to figure out the narrative around the characters.
TC. Working with Sydney performer Eden Hill (POST) must be an exciting development, how did this collaboration begin? And what are you hoping his involvement will bring to the development?
ZP. It’s exciting to be working with someone new on this project, to have a fresh perspective in the rehearsal room. I’d seen Eden perform in Sydney and remembered him from WAAPA and asked him to get involved with the project.
TC. 2012 marks almost six years since Side Pony Productions first work Motor City Blues. Looking back on the company’s development, what are the key moments that have stood out for you in the maturation of your company?
ZP. I think this year is actually the eighth year for Side Pony and that’s a pretty tough question. The Manic Pony is a show that I’m still really proud of, it was great fun and really cemented a style that has carried through into all my shows. When PTC picked up The Pride for a second season, that was a significant moment for the company that validated what Side Pony had been working away at independently for so long.
TC. And lastly, what else do you have cooking in 2012?
ZP. Later this year Adriane and I are going to keep working on The Castle of Good Will, an interactive audio work which we started last year and also I’m off to study film directing for the second half of the year.
The Wives of Hemingway
12 – 2pm Saturday 28 April 2012
Midland Junction Arts Centre
276 Great Eastern Highway (corner Cale St)
No RSVP, invitation or ticket required!