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.