Interview with Ursula Yovich | The Magic Hour

Posted by Thom Smyth, May 20th, 2014

The Magic Hour is embarking on a mammoth five state and territory, 23 venue national touring, opening tonight at Queensland Theatre Company’s Bille Brown Studio. The show’s star, internationally-renowned performer Ursula Yovich, brings a fresh, urban flavour to classic Grimm’s fairy tales in the swansong performance from Fremantle’s now-closed Deckchair Theatre. Ursula took time out from rehearsals to answer some quick questions from Performing Lines WA’s Thom Smyth.

TS: You’ve performed on every main stage and with every major theatre company in Australia. What was it that excites you about The Magic Hour?
UY: The Magic Hour gave me the opportunity to do a play where I was not playing an indigenous character and to play complex and dramatically full roles on stage and it’s fun.

TS: You have appeared as the solo performer in a number of works, including The Magic Hour and your own show Magpie Blues. Are you drawn to this sort of raw performer/audience relationship, or it is it completely terrifying?!
UY: It’s always terrifying! I think I’m losing my nerve but then I get up and I have to push everything out of my mind and tell the story. That’s the hardest thing for me to do as my mind is always talking. I do like the rawness and hope I get better at controlling the terror and enjoying the interaction more.

TS: You’ve won and been nominated for numerous Helpmann Awards, featured on stage and screen around Australia and the world…is there a stand-out moment you’ll never be able to forget?
UY: I’ve never been in a production with Cate Blanchett, perhaps one day? Who knows? I don’t really have one stand-out performance. I have always found in every performance a moment that I like. I try and find something about every performances that I like. 'The Magical Hour' / Deckchair Theatre - 17th May 2012

TS: What can’t you live without when you’re on the road touring?
UY: For this particular production I would have to say I can’t live without The Magic Hour script. I always go through my scripts before I go in stage, they’re my security blanket.

TS: The Magic Hour is visiting venues across five states and territories, including seasons with the Queensland Theatre Company and Darwin Festival. Is there anywhere on the tour particularly close to your heart.
UY: Darwin is close to me – I have a love-hate relationship with the place I grew up in. I have a desire to go back and live there but after visits I change my mind but then a few months later I sway back to wanting to live there.

The Magic Hour national tour commences 20 May 2014, travelling through Queensland, New South Wales, ACT, Victoria and the Northern Territory. Keep up to date on the tour with the hashtag #MagicHourTour

Image credit: Sydney Theatre Company

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Interview with Alicia Clements | The Magic Hour

Posted by Thom Smyth, April 25th, 2014

Designing sets and costumes is no easy task – there are so many different considerations to take into account when creating the world, props and outfits for characters to inhabit. Some people make it look easy though – enter Alicia Clements. A talented young designer, Alicia is the recent recipient of the Kristian Fredrikson Scholarship for Design in The Performing Arts, announced at Melbourne’s Green Room Awards, and is one half of the creative team behind The Skeletal System. She’s also the designer on The Magic Hour, creating the caravan, costumes, and puppets that feature in the show. She sat down with Thom Smyth (TS) for a quick catch-up on all things design.

TS: Where do you start the design for a project like The Magic Hour? What was the first thing you did?
AC: The first thing we did was ask ourselves “what kind of a world do we want to set this in”? Unlike most narrative plays, The Magic Hour has no prescriptive setting, which can be quite daunting.  The final decision to create a “storyteller” character who lives in a travelling caravan came out of our development week in Sydney.  From there I started building the look of the world – eclectic possessions, wild plants, rough textures and once-bright colours that have faded and worn out.

TS: You’ve worked on productions on main stages with companies in Australia and the United Kingdom. What was it that excited you about this show?
AC: The storytelling and creative possibilities of this production were incredibly exciting.  I’ve always been fascinated by the dark origins of fairytales and Vanessa’s script explores this to its fullest.

TS: Who is your favourite Magic Hour character? How did you create their look?
AC: My favourite character to dress is the Storyteller herself.  Her look has an earthy, eclectic quality, influenced by different tribes across the world from Australia, to Romania to South America.  We wanted her to feel as though she could survive in any corner of the world with animal skins, leather, rough cotton and wool all featuring in her belongings.

TS: The Magic Hour was originally conceived as a production for Deckchair Theatre at Victoria Hall in Fremantle. Has taking the show on the road been a design challenge?
AC: Fortunately, the design is a travelling caravan so it almost takes care of itself!  The design was always conceived with the possibility of travel in mind and for that reason is adaptable to numerous different spaces.



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Interview with Chris Bendall | The Magic Hour

Posted by Thom Smyth, April 4th, 2014

The former director of Fremantle’s now sadly closed Deckchair Theatre, Chris Bendall (CB) combined Vanessa Bates’ wonderful script The Magic Hour with the talents of renowned performer Ursula Yovich…and it was a hit. Ahead of the national tour of the show, commencing in late May at Queensland Theatre Company, Thom Smyth (TS) chatted to Chris about the show, the process, and the legacy of the company.

TS: The Magic Hour is back! Are you excited to hit the road and take it on tour? What can audiences expect?
CB: Absolutely! It’s very exciting to get an opportunity to revisit this work. It happens so rarely that you are able to return to a play and give it a second life, and I’m so thrilled that we are going to be able to take this beautiful play to so many different places right round the country. It’s a work of which I’m enormously proud so I can’t wait to see audiences’ reactions to it .
What can they expect? A beautiful new Australian work, that’s in equal parts funny and moving, a marvellous performance from Ursula Yovich – and a great night out in the theatre!

 TS:  What was it that originally drew you to the script?
CB: Its great heart. I loved that it was so funny, that it was about reinventing fairy tales in a completely surprising, original and uniquely Australian way, that it speaks to a really broad audience of all ages, that it offers terrific theatrical potential, and provides a really unique and transformational opportunity for a fine performer to 1

TS: Ursula is an amazing performer. What was it like working with her on the production?
CB: She was just a treat to work with. I loved the process of working with her; she works extraordinarily hard and was so dedicated to this play and developing it with us for its first season in Fremantle.  She is uniquely talented and absolutely perfect for this role. The part calls for a performer who can convincingly play six different characters ranging from a young child to an old grandma and everything in between. Someone who could be very funny, and intensely moving, and provide not only believability to each of the characters, but a richness and depth to the roles. She is just perfect for this play, and I’m sure audiences will love her in it.

TS: The Magic Hour was in Deckchair Theatre’s final season. Is it exciting to revisit the project, or a little bittersweet?
CB: It’s wonderful – that this work has a second life. It’s just testament to the fact that the work that we were creating at Deckchair will live on, just as the artists whose careers were nurtured by the company, the companies that were supported, the audiences whose appetite was nourished by theatre, and the many many playwrights whose work was supported over the 30 year history will also continue.


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