WA Decides | Perth’s favourite show of 2017

Posted by Thom Smyth, December 12th, 2017

The results of our annual industry poll are in, and it was a close and mixed one this year. We asked the below respondents to: let us know what their favourite shows were; to nominate a company or artist to look out for in 2018; and let us know their pick for a show commission.

And the winner is…Co3 Australia for their show The Zone! This super-physical new work by Raewyn Hill combined movement, live music and a stunning design from architect Satoshi Okada. Honourable mentions to Roslyn Oades’ Hello, Goodbye & Happy Birthday (toured by Performing Lines) and Perth Festival’s stunning 2017 opening event Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speak.

We’ve got a tie for artists to watch out for! The joint winners are: Perennial favourites The Last Great Hunt, and the WA Youth Theatre Company under newly appointed Executive Producer James Berlyn.

NAME: Graeme Watson | Editor, Out in Perth

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: The Clearest Light by Christopher Hill, presented as part of the WA Ballet’s Quarry Season. Hill is a super talented, choreographer and musician, This piece was foreboding, dark and mesmerizing.

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Lady Eats Apple – I had huge expectations for this show from Back to Back Theatre, it didn’t disappoint, I think I slipped into a trance during this show.

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Renegade Productions Unveiled: Gay Sex for Endtimes – I saw it a week ago and I’m still laughing.

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2018?: Cougar Morrison – his Fringe World shows are always amazing, but he’s been perfecting the art of drag throughout the year, and giving stunning performances.

2018 COMMISSION TOPIC?: clearly we need some shows about dual citizenship

Hello, Goodbye & Happy Birthday | Image by Amy Brown

 Mitchell Whelan | Independent Artist

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: The Gabriels by Richard Nelson at PIAF – 9 hours of ‘hard core naturalism’ at it’s finest

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Hello, Goodbye and Happy Birthday by Roslyn Oades, produced by Performing Lines at MPAC – Just so beautiful, and heartfelt

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Price Tag by Jeffrey Jay Fowler – I laughed, I screamed, I bought a cheap delicious beer after the show

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2018?: Rhiannon Walker, designer of Once We Lived here @ The Blue Room; Frieda Lee, performer in The Advisors by Last Great Hunt and a Black Swan Emerging Writer; Liz Newell, Playwright of Toast @ The Blue Room

2018 COMMISSION TOPIC?: FUCK TRUMP; “gender is a construct, tear it apart” – Sasha Velour; Russia is rounding up and killing gay men


NAME: Joanna Trilling | Producer, ABC News

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Complicite & Simon McBurney – The Encounter at Perth Festival: This incredible feat of story-telling took us on a journey into the Amazon jungle – it was an astonishing technical feat.

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Barking Gecko Theatre Company – Bambert’s Book of Lost Stories: I’d heard so many wonderful things about this production having missed it’s first run so expectations were high -it didn’t dissapoint. Bravo Barking Gecko for delivering this delightful, gem of a show.

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: CO3, Raewyn Hill The Zone – Raewyn’s hard-hitting, physical choreography combined with Eden Mulholland live music, Mark Howett’s lighting and Satoshi Okada’s set created a mesmerising work.

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2018?: The Last Great Hunt and James Berlyn (WAYTCo)

Boorna Waanginy | Image by Toni Wilkinson

 Alex Desebrock | Lead Artist, Maybe (   ) Together

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speak – Perth Festival – just stunning, and timely. Such an massive experience by Perth locals talking about necessary things, with magic, science and heart.

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Aeon by Lz Dunn, presented by PICA Perry Lakes and produced by Performing Lines – I had a magic experience doing this. Walking through WA bush and swarming with strangers. Loved its simplicity.

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Fantasy Light Yoga by Deep Soulful Sweats – those girls know how to get people moving. This was the second time I’ve done their work and it always amazes me that everyone participates, embodying their star sign. Hilarious, joyous and a work out!

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2018?: I missed the PRVCY showing at PICA and am interested to see how this evolves….sounds hot. Am also super excited by High Tide and Fremantle Festival and how this is going to evolve! Shout out to Open Lid Ensemble for Hypatia this year too – look forward to seeing what’s next.

2018 COMMISSION TOPIC?: Anything getting people with differing perspectives connecting in the same room. Anything with two sides (indigenous and non, young and old, left and right, etc: bring it!)


NAME: Terri-ann White | Director, UWA Publishing

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Strut Dance/One Flat Thing, Reproduced A masterpiece of alfresco intensity and future projections for crack dancers

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Roslyn Oades/Hello, Goodbye and Happy Birthday Such exquisite theatre-making and performance

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Perth Festival/ Boorna Waanginy: the Trees Speak/Kings Park Opening Event Transformative


2018 COMMISSION TOPIC?: Beauty and love in our difficult era


NAME: Mararo Wangai | Independent Aritst

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Gregory Maqoma: Exit/Exist

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Hart – She Said Theatre

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Laika: A Staged Radio Play by Second Chance Theatre



The Advisors | Image by Daniel James Grant

 Paul Selwyn Norton | Director, Strut Dance

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Betroffenheit – Kidd Pivot – Perth Festival

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: One Flat Thing, Reproduced – William Forsythe – STRUT Dance

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: The Advisors – The Last Great Hunt


2018 COMMISSION TOPIC?: Moral Leadership


NAME: Anna Reece | Head of Programming, Perth Festival

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: The Gabriel’s, The Public Theatre, Perth Festival 2017. Sharing this show with good friends and strangers for a whole day at Subiaco Theatre Centre reminded me of how extraordinarily powerful and touching simple, bare bones theatre can be. Made me weep with happiness and despair and this crazy old world.

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: My Robot – last show out of the gates for Barking Gecko in 2017 was a serious showcase of the best of the West from performance & design through to the genius behind the lovable Robot.

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Oddysea – Sensorium Theatre.  Such a treat to be able to enter the extraordinary tactile world Sensorium create for young people with special needs in their amazing underwater dome.

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2018?: Arielle Gray – a lead artist for the Last Great Hunt’s equally brilliant and adorable New Owner, her performance as the gutsy young adventurer in Barking Gecko’s My Robot was outstanding and currently in development for a new site-specific work in a hotel. 2018 is the year for AG I reckon!

2018 COMMISSION TOPIC?: Contemporary Indigenous stories


NAME: Sean Walsh | Producer, The Last Great Hunt

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Deanna Flesher/ Butt Kapinski

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: The Last Great Hunt/ BALI

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: The Kabuki Drop/ BLINK – Ok I didn’t see much this year, but it was good (for a play I was in!)

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2018?: The Last Great Hunt – more great stuff on the way in 2018!

2018 COMMISSION TOPIC?: Social impact of the dual speed economy – the widening gap between rich and poor in Australia

Good Little Soldier | Image by Peter Tea

 Sarah McNeill | Arts Editor, POST Newspapers

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: The Lighthouse Girl/ Black Swan State theatre Co. A beautifully realised local story. Moving. Heartfelt

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Master Class/ Amanda Muggleton. A true master class in performance

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Good Little Soldier/ Ochre Dance company

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2018?: Ochre Dance co

2018 COMMISSION TOPIC?: sexual predators!


NAME: Frances Barbe | Senior Lecturer, WAAPA


ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2018?: WAAPA Bachelor of Performing Arts – Performance Making graduates!


NAME: Sharon Custers | General Manager, Bunbury Regional Entertainment Centre

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: The Encounter – Complicite


PERFORMANCE PICK #3: It’s Dark Outside – The Last Great Hunt

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2018?: The Last Great Hunt

2018 COMMISSION TOPIC?: What it means to be a young person growing up in the digital age


NAME: Anna Kosky | Producer, Barking Gecko Theatre Company and Producer, Perth Festival

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speak. An amazing local collaboration of scale

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Wardarnji: Fremantle Festival Opening. A beautiful simple dance and singing celebration of Noongar culture.

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Betroffenheit. a show that hit you in the guts and left you reeling for days.

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2018?: City of Fremantle I think are doing really exciting things in the arts sector and I think there is heaps of interesting things to come out of the programs down there.

2018 COMMISSION TOPIC?: Post-Weinstein world and the normalisation of sexism and misogyny in our everyday lives.


NAME: Philippa Maughan | Director of Investment, Country Arts WA

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: The Zone by Co3. The meeting of contemporary dance & architecture with the dancers having to overcome barriers simply to enter & exit the stage made for an exciting evening of dance

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Good Little Soldier by Ochre Dance – an excellent merging of dance & storytelling about a compelling subject by an impressive ensemble of actors, dancers & creatives

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Sista Girl – State Theatre of SA & Yirra Yaakin – terrific to hear two voices and a scenario not often heard on our stages in a tight production

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2018?: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre – if The Rules of Summer indicate a change in tone for the company, then more please!



NAME: Ryan Taaffe | Executive Officer, Circuitwest

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Co3 & The Farm – Frank Enstein

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: The Last Great Hunt – Bali

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Small Voices Louder – Maybe ( ) Together, produced by Performing Lines WA.

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2018?: Western Sky Theatre

2018 COMMISSION TOPIC?: When did empathy evaporate?

Lady Eats Apple | Image by Jeff Busby

 Jay Emmanuel | Artistic Director, St Georges Cathedral

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Lady Eats Apple (Back to Back Theatre) The epic is set against the every day in this incredibly moving and profound production. Presented by Perth Festival.

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Nautilus by Trygve Wakenshaw & Presented by Fringe World. He is a star of physical comedy. Catch him at Sydney Festival in 2018!

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Hello, Goodbye & Happy Birthday By Roslyn Oades. A cross generational performance that puts us in touch with our humanity. It is heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time.

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2018?: Julia Hales, Ziggy Ramo, Kevin Wangai, Daisy Sanders, Maddie Kate, Liam Colgan, Ochre Contemporary Dance Company, Black Swan State Theatre Company’s incredible 2018 program

2018 COMMISSION TOPIC?: Works that explore intercultural conversations.


NAME: Julian Hobba | Executive Director, The Blue Room Theatre

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Side Pony Productions & The Last Great Hunt – The Irresistible | Devised work that was rich, economical, evocative and aesthetically moreish!

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: The Kabuki Drop – Blink | A beautifully spare and refined production of a text-based play

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Renegade Productions – Unveiling: Gay Sex for Endtimes | A brave and grounded post-dramatic work that crossed from theatre into art

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2018?: FUGUE | Maiden Voyage Theatre Company

2018 COMMISSION TOPIC?: the disconnection of our social tissue


NAME: Leigh Hill | Journalist, Out in Perth

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: Arteries By Ancestry – Fugue

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Hypatia – The Open Lid Ensemble

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: Mache: Home – Gendermess


Coma Land | Image by Philip Gostelow

 Fiona de Garis | Senior Producer, Performing Lines WA

PERFORMANCE PICK #1: This Little Light of Mine (Proximity Festival Program C) / Rachael Dease in Proximity Festival – possibly my favourite Proximity show so far. Beautifully judged framework for a deeply personal and transformative experience

PERFORMANCE PICK #2: Coma Land / Will O’Mahony Black Swan State Theatre Company and Performing Lines WA – OK, OK, totally biased on this one, but just as in love with this story of love and letting go after seeing it onstage as I was when I first read the script.

PERFORMANCE PICK #3: The Zone / Co3 – I could have watched the dancers being sucked in and out of the walls all night. Great to see the company in full flight on the mainstage.

ARTIST/COMPANY TO WATCH IN 2018?: WA Youth Theatre Company – exciting things ahead for WAYTCo with James Berlyn and Carmel McKie at the helm.

2018 COMMISSION TOPIC?: Happiness

HOT TIPS | Picks for the festival season – Thom

Posted by Thom Smyth, December 9th, 2017

We’ve got a new news section coming up for you over the next few weeks as we head into all the festival craziness of Fringe and Perth Festival.

Each week, the team will let you in on what they’re looking forward to from the hundreds of shows on offer. And we’re kicking it off with Thom’s hot tips – he’s in town to work with Sensorium Theatre on their new show Whoosh! and has been perusing the programs for these winners. Check em out!

Here at Performing Lines WA, we’ve all got our own stuff that we’re particularly passionate about. I’m all about queer and experimental performance, movement, political work that challenges us to be better, and stuff that makes you go “I don’t what I just watched but holy crap that was ace”. Here’s a few of the things that jumped out as super-exciting for your eyes, ears and brains.

TOP PICK – Nat Randall and Anna Breckon’s The Second Woman | 3 – 4 March
Hnnnnnng!! Nat Randall’s gruelling 24-hour endurance performance, coupled with stunning live cinema work by Anna Breckon and EO Gill, is by far the most amazing thing I’ve seen in ages. I went in to Bay 20 at Carriageworks aiming to check it out for about an hour…I emerged five and a half hours later completely blown away, thrilled, repulsed and charged up with that ‘woooah I just saw something life altering’ buzz. Do it. Hot tip – bring a cushion if you’re in for the long haul at PICA. Tickets on the door. More info>>

Betty Grumble – Love & Anger | 5 – 11 Feb
If you haven’t experienced this womanifesto from the undisputed queen of Sydney’s queer party scene, you really should think about rectifying that situation. It’s the call to arms and sparkler up the butt we need in these dark times. Get tickets>> 

Dance North & Lucy Guerin Inc – Attractor | 8 – 10 Feb
Gideon Obarzanek (formerly of Chunky Move) and Lucy Guerin are legends. Here they team up with Australia’s current hottest dance company Dance North and Indonesian noise rockers Senyawa to create a hypnotic, cathartic dance ritual. You can also register to be part of the action on stage. Get tickets>>

Hot Brown Honey | 8 – 25 Feb
Perth, it’s finally your chance to decolonise and moisturise! Hot Brown Honey is a political force that demands your attention and will spur you to action. Led by the inimitable Busty Beatz and Linda Catalano and featuring a host of legends including Ghenoa Gela and Perth’s very own Ofa Fotu, the show has rocked venues around Australia and the world. I caught it at the Opera House earlier this year and it’s a big, bold, joyous middle finger to the straight old white guys ruining the world. Get tickets>>

The Blue Room Theatre – MicroMove | 13 – 17 Feb
A mini-festival of new contemporary dance works by some of Perth’s most exciting choreographers and dance makers. Enough said really. Get tickets>> 

Supple Fox – Siren Song | 9 – 18 Feb
The hit of Dark Mofo this year, Siren Song put banks of speakers either side of the Derwent and on key buildings, with song marking dawn and dusk each day. Cannot wait to see and hear how it transforms the CBD here. More info>> 

Gravity & Other Myths – A Simple Space | 27 Jan – 11 Feb
Insanely talented performers doing incredible tricks with no nonsense. It’s impossible not to be impressed by this gang. We toured this show in 2015 and 2016  – now they’re taking over the world, performing across the US, Europe and Asia. Check out this festival hit before they head to APAM. Get tickets>>

Julia Croft – Power Ballad | 27 Jan – 3 Feb
Last year’s Summer Nights hit If There’s Not Dancing At The Revolution, I’m Not Coming was a treat, fusing pop culture and cinema references to create a bold, exciting, feminist call to arms. Power Ballad throws karaoke, live art and linguistic anarchism into a performance lecture blender for viewing pleasure. Yes please. Get tickets>>

Static Drive Co – Night Sweats | 2 – 10 Feb
A brand new show from a brand new company of promising emerging Perth performance makers, backed by a solid team. Keen to see what they do with this one. Also it’s a real good image. Get tickets>>

Perth Festival Visual Arts | Various dates
There are some amazing artists exhibiting at Perth Festival. Don’t miss Lisa Reihana, Latai Taumoepeau, Kimsooja and Pilar Matar Dupont’s exhibitions. More info>>

OPINION | Postcard from ATF17 – Riley Spadaro discusses diversity

Posted by Cecile Lucas, October 19th, 2017

Just how white is the Australian Performing Arts industry? How do we create space for diversity on our stages and within our organisations? This week, recent WAAPA graduate Riley Spadaro reports for us on his experience as first-time attendee at the 2017 Australian Theatre Forum, and outlines the profound challenges that arts organisations, producers and artists are facing when it comes to cultural diversity, what pathways can we create to be more inclusive and how can we embrace our differences.

What could “better” look like?

The Australian Theatre Forum is a biennial national conference for theatre artists, producers and cultural provocateurs to come together and discuss national concerns and practices. It is a significant industry event for sector-wide conversation and action. Co-curated by Alexis West and Steve Mayhew, and hosted on Kaurna Country at the Adelaide Festival Centre 3 – 5 October, ATF 2017 declared it was ABOUT TIME we tackled the sticky topics.


But where to begin? What are the problems and possibilities of our time?


Climate change?

Cultural competency?

Dismantling funding models? Gender constructs? Glass ceilings? Governance structures? Heteronormative narratives?

Implementing self care strategies?

Increasing diversity on Australian stages?


Q: “What can the arts actually do?”

A: [Pause]


A genuine dilemma here.

Deep breaths.

I can only begin by stating where I am.

I am a white, cis-gendered male who identifies as part of the LGBTQI+ community. Like most of my friends, I am standing in a space between Yes and No, between knowing and not knowing, with bullets flying past my head and “No” being written in the clouds above. It is a painful place to be, but I own that. I am a second generation Australian, but I do not identify as culturally or linguistically diverse. I am able-bodied. I am a graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. I am educated (albeit with minimum earning capacity). By the time this blog is published I will be living in Sydney and working at Belvoir on Barbara and the Camp Dogs. I have mobility and I am unmistakably privileged.

I speak from this perspective because it is the one I know, but it is not a singular experience, nor should it be viewed as such. Space is not finite. Space creates space.

Barbara and the Camp Dogs by Ursula Yovich and Alana Valentine (Image: Daniel Boud)

Without question, ATF 2017 was the most inclusive forum in recent memory – boasting 31 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander delegates, 47 CALD, 57 regional-based, 58 LGBTQI+ (5 of who identified using they/them pronouns), 25 people with disability, 78 young and emerging, and 101 with a special dietary requirement. I would love to believe this level of inclusivity was normal, and part of me, some days, naively thinks it is the case. But having these statistics read aloud and met with applause was an uncomfortable indication of how far we have to go. We are in a marathon – not a sprint – and we are tired.

It is important to acknowledge that we have been attacked, repeatedly, over the last two years. We have been faced with a traumatic government intervention into arts funding that quashed the small-to-medium sector, a global shift towards isolationist politics, an increase of 6 parts per million in C02 emissions, and now a divisive postal survey asking us to vote on someone else’s right to love. It is important to acknowledge that we are weary, but to give way to despair is the ultimate cop-out.

The opening keynote from Jo Bannon was a war cry.

“At our best, we are a bit fucked – personally, politically, socially.” (Yes, Jo. We know.)

“The pooch is screwed and it can’t be unscrewed.”

“Art can’t unfuck the world, but it can fuck it right back.


Invigorating. Exhausting. Toxic. The revolution was alive. What would the backlash be?

One delegate: “If you are not actively working to dismantle systemic structures of whiteness then you are participating in white supremacy.”

Another delegate: “Frankly, I’m tired of saying sorry.”

(Poor start. Let’s unpack.)


Earlier this year, I studied abroad at the Intercultural Theatre Institute in Singapore where I trained alongside students from across the Asia-Pacific Region. Studying in a culturally and linguistically diverse community forced me to confront my privilege as a white cis-gendered male (an uncomfortable discovery), and prompted me to ponder the questions: what is the underlying terror in the Australian cultural unconscious and does this terror give rise to the need to construct borders? Indeed, the imagined Australia is built on an Anglification of the geographical and ideological landscape. That is, non-Indigenous Australia – or, more specifically, ‘White Australia’ – is constructed on the idea that a person, object or geographical location can be classified as ‘Australian’ or as ‘Not Australian’ based on its seeming whiteness.

For performance studies scholar Joanne Tompkins, this anxiety with ideological classification stems from “a fundamental discomfort with the process of settlement and the establishment of nationhood” and a “will to forget what is actually known” 1 – that the Australian land mass always was (and always will be) Aboriginal land. Indeed, the notion of white ownership is institutionalised by a regime of truth which advances white nationalist discourses through legislative mechanisms of anti-immigration and marginalisation. For instance, hardline, state-sanctioned policies on border security and offshore detention work to enforce a white national identity by entrenching xenophobic attitudes towards ‘Non-Australians’ in legislative processes and systems – giving rise to a language that, in no uncertain terms, separates ‘us’ from ‘them.’

The use of this divisive language could be attributed to an unconscious lived-dislocation, or a seeming inability to construct a sense of being ‘at home.’ That is, the preoccupation with maintaining a ‘culturally pure’ national identity could stem from an innate insecurity towards the illegitimacy or non-permanence of white land ownership. Indeed, White Australia is constructed on a systemic dislocation and dispossession of land from Indigenous and First Nations people, and, therefore, any attempts to reclaim or reshape colonialist narratives are met with hostility.

But the arts are inclusive, right?

In her article Multiculturalism and the Mainstage, Dr. Roanna Gonsalves commented: “if the performing arts are meant to hold a mirror to society, then the Australian performing arts sector functions as a spectacular distortion.” 2 Today, 25% of Australia’s 22 million people were born overseas, 44% were born overseas or have a parent who was, and just under 20% speak a language other than English 3 and yet these culturally and linguistically diverse voices are largely under-represented in the Australian performing arts sector. 4

(Note: As a definition, ‘culturally and linguistically diverse’ is problematic as it reinforces a sense of ‘other’ and addresses non-Anglo-Saxon ethnicities as one homogenous group, rather than as separate cultures. However, despite these limitations, the definition is useful as it acknowledges that people of non-Anglo-Saxon background encounter a shared range of issues relating to access.)

Further, just over two years ago, the Australia Council for the Arts examined the programs of 135 Australian presenters and found that Indigenous and First Nations performing arts were under-represented in mainstream venues and festivals. Indigenous and First Nations works comprised around 2% of the almost 6000 works programmed in 2015 seasons. Almost 50% of presenters did not appear to program works with Indigenous or First Nations creative control, involvement or content, citing financial risk, difficulty in finding works that are not tokenistic, concerns that Indigenous work is “too serious”, fear of “doing First Nations work wrong”, and Australia’s underlying race issues as the main barriers. 5

And I get it – the truth always hurts. Being reminded that we are living on a land that never was (and never will be) ours is uncomfortable. Being told we have to “pay the rent” on stolen land is uncomfortable. But perhaps we need to lean into this discomfort and, like Indigenous performing artist Teila Watson (aka Ancestress) suggested, quietly take note of our resistances and work towards reconciling ourselves to them.

Perhaps we need to acknowledge that truth is subjective. Perhaps we need to embrace quiet and listen to each other’s truths. Listen to the pain. Listen to the wounding. Listen to the love. To listen is to move towards a space of not knowing, towards a space of zero. Conversation is the first step in dismantling the status quo. Words to speak over and over: “I don’t know, I’m listening, I don’t know, I’m listening, I don’t know.”

And I admit – all of this does seem out of reach. But it is important to remember that institutions are not natural phenomena – they have been invented and we can invent them anew. We need imagination as to what ‘better’ might look like. We need to let ourselves be led by our dreams.

Q: “So… what can the arts do?”

A: [Pause]


Art – in its most intoxicating form – holds its grounds while it destabilises yours.


On the first day of the ATF, in an incandescent response to the keynotes, Zainab Syed – Performing Lines WA Associate Producer and my friend – asked us to close our eyes and listen.


“… My dome will always shimmer in the sunshine

There will always be enough windows in me to let the light in.”


Art is to hold together. Art is thoughtful dissent. Art cannot change the world, but art can change people. People change the world.


Make the change you want to see.


Fuck back.


I have just disembarked from a red-eye flight to Sydney (a thought: is my exhaustion and lack of sleep an indication of something inherently good about myself?) and I am invigorated. This is the moment of change. Standing on the precipice of not knowing is electric.



Riley Spadaro, Independent Artist

Barbara and the Camp Dogs | 2-23 December.

Belvoir Theatre, Surry Hills, Sydney | Info and tickets>>


1 Tompkins, J. (2006). Unsettling Space: Contestations in Contemporary Australian Theatre. New York, N.Y.: Palgrave Macmillan.
2 Gonsalves, R. (2011). Multiculturalism and Mainstage Australian Theatre. Journal of the European Association of Studies on Australia 2(2), 72-83.
3 BEMAC. (2015). Theatre Diversity Initiative. Retrieved from http://bemac.org.au/projects/theatre-diversity-initiative/
4 Department of Immigration and Citizenship. (2013). The People of Australia: Australia’s Multicultural Policy. Retrieved from https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/12_2013/people-of-australia-multicultural-policy-booklet.pdf.
5 Australia Council for the Arts. (2016). Showcasing Creativity: Programming and Presenting First Nations Performing Arts. Retrieved from http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/workspace/uploads/files/research/ australia-council-research-rep-57c75f3919b32.pdf




NEWS | Mitchell Whelan Reports on the 2017 ATF

Posted by Cecile Lucas, October 12th, 2017

Emerging WA Queer artist Mitchell Whelan has just returned from the 2017 Australian Theatre Forum that was held in Adelaide early this month. Mitchell was among the seven independent artists from WA to attend the event. As a strong advocate for better representation of works made by and for Queer people, we asked Mitchell to share his views on the place that Queer work currently occupies on Australian stages following the group conversation he attended during the forum, as well as his overall experience as a first-time Forum attendee.


It’s about time… we share our stages, our stories and our spaces. It’s about time we fuck the world back.

The 2017 Australian Theatre Forum was a chance to share the ideas, concerns and provocations from around the sector. Theatre Network Australia was successful in making sure that people from culturally, physically, sexually and gender-diverse backgrounds were present in the room as both established and emerging artists. It was fantastic to be part of passionate discussions that critiqued the sector’s room for growth and behaviour as a national community.

Key note speakers Jo Bannon and Ivan Heng (W!LD RICE) provoked the forum brilliantly with what theatre must do. Simply, in a world that is fucked it is the job of theatre not to try and unfuck but to fuck back. We do this with works that transform audiences from strangers to community. Yuin architect Linda Kennedy (Future Black) described an experience in which multiple disciplines came together, dance and architecture of all things, to make a lasting impact in the community.

Blood On The Dance Floor by Jacob Boehme (Image by Dorinne Blaise)

During three days, artists, producers and presenters poured out their own provocations and experiences, inspiring us all to fuck back. Meeting with the sector on a national scale really encouraged me to think critically of how I sit in the Perth’s ecology, and the kind of relationships I have with other artists and organisations here in Perth.

So what do I want to fuck?

In preparation for The Forum I sounded out my neighbourhood of emerging LGBTQIA artists as well as production staff and one common thing clearly stands out: we need more representation of Queer stories, and we should be expecting better. And this sentiment was echoed at The Forum.

Radha La Bia’s The Divine Game at Underbelly Arts

While metropolitan areas are pained at seeing the repetition of the same coming out story, regional areas are in dire need of Queer representation as well as safe spaces so that coming out stories could be told at all.

Sydney and NSW delegates described a frightening decline in Queer works as the nightclubs and performance spaces that usually house such artists are forced to close as a result of NSW’s 2014 Lockout Law and rising inner-city rents.

Betty Grumble’s Sex Clown Saves The World

Then came a point in the conversation where I felt both a mix of pride and fear. Maybe Perth has become a ‘National Hotspot’ for Queer works? The past year has seen a number of LGBTQIA+ artists stage heartfelt, bold and successful Queer theatre at The Blue Room. PICA presented Pony Express’ Ecosexual Bathhouse, as well as works by 110%, Angela Goh and Deep Soulful Sweats. More recently, PICA has partnered with Lz Dunn to bring Aeon to Perth (produced by Performing Lines), and Black Swan State Theatre Company has programmed HIR by Taylor Mac in conversation with Summer of the Seventeenth Doll by Ray Lawler for 2018.

Ecosexual Bathhouse by Pony Express (Image by Matt Sav)

Why then do many artists still feel the need to search for their stories on stage? Perhaps the answer lies in what we’re willing to ask for as audiences and makers. I quickly scribed the group conversation “The Queer Space on the Australian Stage” led by Emma Valente (The Rabble) and Daniel Clarke (Arts Centre Melbourne):

“A Queer work sits in the margins, it is radical and explosive performance that shifts away from heteronormative desires. Queer work re-imagines sex, desire and the body, and celebrates queer bodies. Queer work is a method of rejecting and accepting, it’s circles and fragments – not lines. And unquestionably, Queer work is made by and for Queer people. But how does this work exist in margins that are being closed down? What happens when your voice is diluted by subscriber bases, straight cisgender directors and government funding? If you can count on one hand the amount of Queer works you’ve seen in your city over the entire year, do you have a hotspot?”

AEON by Lz Dunn & Collaborators (Image by Bryony Jackson)

It’s about time that we ask for the work we want to see, to be made the way we want to see it. That we open our rehearsal rooms and stages to the voices and audiences of our LGBTQIA siblings.

Mitchell Whelan

PROFILE | Gemma Pepper – Independent Producer

Posted by Cecile Lucas, June 7th, 2017

Gemma Pepper is a Sydney-based Independent Producer working with a number of companies on both sides of the country including Erth, Side Pony Productions, and previously for Canberra’s Enlighten Festival 2012-2014 as Creative Producer.

Joining me for a quick interview, Gemma spills the beans about The Irresistible, a co-production between Side Pony and The Last Great Hunt, ahead of its season at PICA, her views on some of the best tech-based performance experiences she’s had recently, and some practical tips for new producers…


TREAT TIME | we’ve got a double pass to the preview of The Irresistible on Wednesday 14 June. To enter, email cecile@performinglineswa.org.au with your name and email address by COB Monday 12 June.

The Irresistible, 14-24 June at PICA. Info and booking>>

Cecile Lucas: How do you describe what you do when people ask?

Gemma Pepper: I produce theatre, festivals and events and recently I’m trying my hand at producing tech projects as well.


CL: Side Pony Production’s latest show The Irresistible (a co-production with The Last Great Hunt) looks at the assumptions people make about others, particular those based on gender. Can you tell us a bit more about what inspired the work?

GP: The seed for this work was sewn when Zoe, Adriane and Tim (the core creative team) worked together in 2013 on The Wives of Hemingway. They were playing with shifting up which performer played each character, ignoring the gender of the performer, and this led to some fairly interesting revelations about how we (as an audience) expect people to behave. They didn’t really have time to delve into it fully at the time and it’s a point of interest that they have all kept coming back to ever since, so it’s great that they have the opportunity to really dig into the topic in this production.

Side Pony’s production The Wives of Hemingway. Photo by David Collins


CL: Technology frequently features in Side Pony work, with sound being manipulated and played around with in this show. Can you tell us how it works and what effect it has for the viewer?

GP: Sound and the manipulation of the voice is a really big element of this show. We have been using voice modulation software triggered by hand-held wii-motes as a way for the performers to jump from one character to another, using the voice as the defining feature of the character. It’s quite amazing how the sound of a performer’s voice can completely shift how you think of them; allowing a small statured woman to very convincingly become a laddish well-built man in a matter of seconds. This play with voice is quite unnerving as an audience member and it lets our two performers play a lot of different characters.


The Irresistible, photo by David Collins


CL: In a previous interview with The Street you shared that you were interested in all sorts of productions using new technology that enhance audience’s experience. Let’s get nerdy – what have you seen or discovered recently that you’ve been excited about?

GP: There are some really interesting new experiences coming out at the moment that embrace new technologies, some within the arts and some further afield. I really love Roslyn Oades’ work Hello, Goodbye and Happy Birthday (produced by Performing Lines), which is a verbatim theatre work where the performers are guided by documentary audio. Erth is cooking up a brand new VR experience with its prehistoric marine creatures, which will be amazing when it comes out and I’ve stumbled across this fantastic reading app called Novel Effect which uses voice recognition to track your progress as you read aloud from a children’s book and it overlays sound effects to match the story.

Hello, Goodbye & Happy Birthday. Photo by Sarah Walker

CL: You’ve worked independently as a producer, as well as for companies including Erth. Can you share with us a moment or experience that stands out as formative to you as a producer?

GP: You have moments all the time where you think you are way out of your depth but once you’re in it you can’t back out, so you just knuckle down and get the job done only to look back and realise what a major learning curve it was. “Spectacular by Night” was one of those events for me, which I cooked up when I was Creative Producer of the Enlighten festival in Canberra. I had come up with the idea of hanging trapeze artists under two hot air balloons for a night glow (which is where the hot air balloons glow at dusk), it seemed like a speccy idea at the time but it wasn’t until I was looking over the 15-20,000 people who had come to watch it, hoping like anything the wind wasn’t going to pick up, that I really appreciated the ridiculous ambition of what we were trying to pull off… thankfully everything went smoothly and the crowd were suitably impressed.


CL: So you’re based in Sydney, Zoe is based in Perth, and the creative team for The Irresistible are drawn from across Australia. Does that make working collaboratively a challenge? How do you overcome the tyranny of distance?

GP: Zoe and I have worked this way for a long time, so it’s pretty much second nature now. We use a hell of a lot of communication platforms, which can get a bit confusing, but we check in with each other all the time. Bringing others into that space is a little harder and it’s been really important to factor in face to face time, where everyone can get more of a sense of the humour and general aesthetic of what the show is. We now have everyone in the room, which is great, and they are cranking out some pretty amazing content which will make for a really punchy show. I gotta say I’m pretty excited about what it’s becoming.


CL: What’s your best advice for aspiring producers?

GP: It’s really important to take on projects that extend your skills, where you learn from others and build your capacity but it’s also important not to say yes to everything. Once you have said yes you don’t have that time available for the next project that comes along that might be amazing… so it’s good to be discerning in the work that you take on.

Side Pony Productions & The Last Great Hunt’s The Irresistible
14 – 24 June | PICA Performance Space | Info and booking>>

Hello, Goodbye and Happy Birthday is touring nationally from July to September. Catch this multi-award winning production on their only WA dates at the Mandurah Performing Arts Centre from 25-26 August 2017. Info and Booking>>