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.
Are 20-somethings so self-consumed they are unable to truly connect with one another? This question is posed in One Night Echo, the latest work by Perth’s theatre dream team The Duck House. The show takes a modern look at the Greek mythological stories of Narcissus and Echo and takes place at a house party at 3am. I caught up with Kat Osborne, Director of the work to find out more…
Words: Kathryn Osborne (KO) and Sarah Rowbottam (SR)
SR. What is the story behind creating One Night Echo? KO. One Night Echo is inspired by the intertwining myths of Narcissus, Echo, Pan, Selene and Endymion. We took the characters in these stories to create a new work that explores contemporary narcissism. The show is set at a backyard 20-something birthday party and through the course of the piece, we see that each character has their own set of self absorbed desires that get in the way of forming any true connection with each other. I wanted to collaborate with composer Elliott Hughes on a work and in 2009 we started talking about this idea for this piece. It’s changed a lot since our initial idea and I think what we’ve ended up with is a new work as opposed to an adaptation of the myths; which is the goal. It’s moved into the contemporary quite strongly, but the presence of the live music keeps it rooted in the surreal. I think, at this point in time anyway, that’s a key feature of the type of work I direct.
SR. Keeping with the theme of parties; if you were going to propose a toast for One Night Echo, what would you say? KO.“A toast! To the infinity of space and the possibilities it holds.”
SR. I read on your blog that Brendan is your “resident research addict”. What’s some of the fascinating insight has he brought into the space? KO. Brendan is playing Eddie, which is the character based on Endymion. Briefly, Endymion is a mortal who falls in love with Selene (The Moon Goddess) and she puts him in an eternal sleep so that he will be beautiful and immortal forever. The most recent ‘fun fact’ that he told me was that there is a crater on the moon that is named after Endymion. He also researched to make sure that the constellations that are mentioned in the show can all be seen in the southern hemisphere at the same time.
Photos: One Night Echo, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts
SR. What are your thoughts about today’s generation of 20-somethings? KO. I’m part of today’s generation of 20-somethings and I feel that with any generation there are a few qualities that give us a bad wrap. There is a perception that we are self-obsessed. I’ve heard the phrase iGen popping up of late too. In One Night Echo we are specifically looking at these qualities of narcissism, but even though we are taking these qualities to an extreme, I don’t necessarily believe that we are unable to truly connect with one another. The work is presenting an idea and I’m interested in what the audience have to say about it.
SR. It’s exciting to see you are working with composer and jazz musician Elliott Hughes and a live band. What can we expect from the music? KO. Live music creates a buzzing energy in the air. I love how the sound fills the space. You can expect music that combines multiple styles and that takes us into the surreal.
SR. What’s the alchemy that occurs during production week that prepares the show for an audience? KO. I try to get a bit more ruthless at this point. Ideas that seemed good three weeks ago I might kick out the door. The worst thing is watching the show with an audience and wishing you hadn’t let something slide. If it’s not working now, it’s probably not going to work in three days time. Better to try something new. It also keeps the performers on their toes.
I have a love/hate relationship with production week. You have to face things that simple aren’t possible due to time or practical reasons. But the best part is when a room of creative people find a creative solution.
Photos: One Night Echo Development, CIA Studios
SR. What are your pre-show rituals? KO. Early on, I like to give pep talks to the cast. It pretty much involves me saying 2 – 3 sentences about being confident and energetic and listening to each other. I like to say something simple. Once I’m in the audience I tend to fidget a lot.
SR. One Night Echo marks The Duck House Theatre’s fifth birthday as an independent company. What has been your most memorable moment? KO. I don’t have a single moment. It’s mostly the sense of drive that hasn’t abandoned me and the need to keep making that stands out. Over the last five years every challenge, failure and success sits in me somewhere. And it has all been vital in my development as an artist. So in a way, it’s all memorable because it effects every choice and action.
SR. What are the positives and negatives of self-presenting? KO. Positives: it’s all on you. Negatives: it’s all on you.
SR. What is life like being an independent artist in Perth right now? KO.Things for The Duck House are going well. Five years, nine professional productions at five different venues is a pretty great achievement. Perth has also changed so much in the since 2007 and it’s becoming a more vibrant place to live. I think the only issue in my mind is the lack of venues for theatre artists. But we are making it work with what we have, so I can’t complain too much! The sense of community here between independent artists is fantastic. Our numbers are getting thinner with a lot of people relocating to the eastern states. As a result, those of us still here have become close and are finding more ways to collaborate and keep making.
One Night Echo
Party. 3am. Those who remain look for love in the dirt. The Birthday Boy is in a world of his own, absorbed by his own brilliance. The Star laughs at The Nobody who stumbles alone in the moonlight. The Loner watches and waits. An echo fights to be heard amongst the early morning tunes, a scattered cry of sadness drifting through the night. In that blurry time between midnight and dawn, where self interest rules, the party people sparkle as the music plays on.
Season:November 7 – 17, 2012
Tuesday 13th 6.30pm only, plus Saturday 17th 2pm matinee
Tickets $28 Full / $20 Conc / $15 Preview
Tickets through www.pica.org.au or 9228 6300
Director / Producer: Kathryn Osborne
Writer / Production Manager: Gita Bezard
Dramaturg: Humphrey Bower
Movement Mentor: Brooke Leeder
Composer / Musician: Elliott Hughes
Lighting Design: Jenny Vila
Set and costume design: Lea Klein
Sound Design: Dean Hall
Performers: Alissa Claessens, Brendan Ewing, Will O’Mahony, Fran Middleton and Tyrone Robinson.
Musicians: Kate Pass, Ethan Darnelli, Jeremy Thompson
Whitney Richards ain’t just a pretty face. She knows how to rough it backstage with Black Swan and bring out the charisma onstage (and on camera.. okay and offstage) with independent film and theatre companies. She can also make funny sounds, run pretty fast and dodge cornflake rain. On her day off, Whitney took the time to write about production week for They ran ’til they stopped – now showing at PICA until Saturday 19 November.
Words: Whitney Richards Photos: Donna Ferreri & Sarah Rowbottam
Hello reader. This is a blog for you to read. I have diarised my adventures during production week for They ran ’til they stopped (TRTTS). I hope you will find this educational.
I have spent the last six months assistant stage managing for Black Swan Theatre Company. I’m not a trained ASM, but they were willing to give me a go because I was keen to work and keen to learn. Hence, production week as a performer for TRTTS was the least stressful I’ve had for a long while.
Production week ain’t really about the performers. It’s about fitting together all the other equally important elements of the production. It helped that the designers were amaze ballz and knew exactly what they were doing. Will Slade (noises), Mike Nanning (globes) and Alissa Claessans (furniture) were true professionals.
Monday: Actors had a day off. I saw the film Drive. So good. Go see it.
Tuesday: Plotting. Actors stand around in places they’re told to stand in. It’s pretty fun. Also the day we learnt Lawrie does a mean step ball change.
Wednesday: Tech and first dress run. Also the day I remembered I have to pretend I don’t have cornflakes riiiiiiight down my pants for half the show. Wednesday was also the day we were semi-attacked at lunch by the “gentleman who was having a bad day.”
Thursday: Final dress run and preview. The dress run was incredibly low in energy. But it was the run we needed to have before we got an audience. Also the day myself, Arielle and Katt chaperoned Lawrie to a questionable looking barber to get an emergency hair cut. Turns out his face is pretty nice. Preview went fairly smoothly, aside from a few rogue props. The show wasn’t as comfortable and fun as it has been in rehearsals. Nerves McGreg! The audience response was great, although I confess it was made up mostly of our close friends.
Friday & Saturday: Final preview and OPENING NIGHT! Great responses and not just from our friends. Also the days we battled with the slippery floor. You’ll have to come see the show to learn why.
We’ve gotten all the scary things out of the way now. Arielle, Lawrie, Alice and myself are now fairly comfortable with the show and can just have fun. I’m thoroughly looking forward to it.
Things I have learnt this week: don’t laugh during your final dress run, it’s incredibly unprofessional. Be careful in Northbridge even at midday. Good teams make the most enjoyable production weeks.
Things you (the reader) have learnt: Be careful in Northbridge even at midday. See Drive. Come see They ran ’til they stopped, there’s cornflakes.
They ran ’til they stopped
10 – 19 November 2011
Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts
Tickets $18 – $28 www.pica.org.au CHEAP TUESDAY $15 Tickets for 6.30pm Tue 15 Nov performance. CODE: Duckies.
Whitney Richards graduated in 2008 from Curtin University with a BA (Film/Television & Performance). She has since worked in over 20 professional and independent film and theatre productions, including the feature Little Sparrows. In 2012 Whitney will perform in two main stage Black Swan State Theatre Company shows.
Lawrence Ashford (Lawrie) is a bit of a champ in our books. Not only did he stand on a podium for two hours in the middle of Perth Cultural Centre whilst strangers covered him with post-it notes saying “nice ass” and “cares like a mother would”, he was just named Perth’s best storyteller at the inaugural Barefaced Story Battle. In between tech runs and RTR interviews, Lawrie took a moment to share what Week 3 rehearsals have been like for They ran ’til they stopped which previews at PICA this Thursday.
Words: Lawrence Ashford, Performer Photos: Sarah Rowbottam
It is with a touch of sadness that we say goodbye to Week 3, and full time rehearsals. As excited as I am to get into the PICA performance space, I shall miss the fun days we spent in the Blue Room Theatre’s Kaos Room.
In fact, that room is aptly named, because at times rehearsals have bordered on unmitigated chaos. Working with Katt, Whitney and Arielle has been an absolute blast, and several times over the last few weeks we have found ourselves looking around, as the fits of laughter subside, and wondering if perhaps we are having too much fun. Fortunately Whitney has kept us on track, repeatedly reminding what page of the script we are up to, and how much more work is ahead of us.
Although, it has never really felt like ‘work’. Katt has maintained a fine line between chaos and control, and has encouraged us to play with almost every piece of text, which has lead to some exciting, and sometimes hilarious discoveries. We have also discovered a lot about each other. For instance, I had always known that Whitney was a talented performer, but it wasn’t until one of our first rehearsals when she burst into tears whilst working on a scene, that I realised she is in fact, a young Meryl Streep! She has been known as Meryl ever since (much to her displeasure). Arielle can also turn on the waterworks should the occasion call for it, and has been known as Natalie Portman since mid last week. If you see either Whitney or Arielle on the street, or at the theatre, please refer to them with their new names. Many thanks.
Working with this team, and with our hardworking production team, has been such a wonderful experience. I look forward to finally opening later this week, and only hope that the audience has as much fun watching this show, as we did making it.
My castmates and I are already plotting a possible sequel. Some titles that have been suggested so far are: “They started running again”, “They ran til they required a hip replacement”, and “I know where you ran last summer”.
Lawrence studied a Bachelor of Arts at Curtin University, with a Major in Performance Studies, and a Minor in Creative Writing. He furthered his training whilst living abroad in London, taking short courses at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Theatre credits include Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love (Hayman Theatre), Terrorism (Hayman Theatre/Be Active BSX-Theatre), and Jack and Jill (The Blue Room Theatre/Red Rabbit Collective). In 2011 Lawrence collaboratively developed and performed in new work: Flirt Fiction (Red Rabbit Collective), which toured to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe before returning to Perth for a three week run as part of The Blue Room Theatre’s Personal season. Lawrence is also an active participant in Barefaced Stories, a regular storytelling series in Perth, and in October 2011 took out the inaugural Barefaced Story Battle, beating a field of thirty four to be named Perth’s best storyteller.
Writer Gita Bezard from The Duck House gives us a snapshot of what week two has been like in the rehearsal room for They ran ’til they stopped, a new performance opening at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts next week.
Pictured (front – back): Gita Bezard, Jeffrey Jay Fowler, Alice Hatton
Words: Gita Bezard, Writer for They ran ’til they stopped
The second week of rehearsals was as much fun as the first. Coming in and out of the room as I do, it was always a joy to walk in and be a part of the fun going down. The script is almost finalized, now I’m just being picking about specific words “can you say ‘good’ instead of ‘fine’, and then can you say ‘ok’ instead of ‘alright’? It’s very important. Thanks.”
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.