'Crash Course was great fun, it was immensely thought provoking, and, above all, it was very, very kweiloo. (good)'

David Zampatti, The West Australian

Crash Course

James Berlyn


Life is a crash course. Places are limited. 

Picking up the pieces after a life-changing event is never easy. Here at Crash Course you are in good hands. With over twenty-five years teaching experience, our instructors gently guide you through the process of rebuilding. 

Welcome to Crash Course, the latest solo work from multi-skilled and much loved artist James Berlyn (Tawdry Heartburn’s Manic Cures, Perth and Sydney Festivals, Adelaide Cabaret Festival, Elektra WA Opera, Perth International Arts Festival). 

Crash Course is a participatory theatre experience that takes the form of an immersive language class. You have experienced some kind of unspecified trauma and lost your language. Your teacher, Jakebo, is here to help you put the pieces back together. But Jakebo didn’t receive the memo. A bureaucratic bungle leads to an unruly classroom experience where anything could happen. Fight or flight, sink or swim, you decide. 

Crash Course is an unforgettable participatory theatre experience about the pitfalls of coming back. Created and performed by the champion of eccentric and uplifting, intimate theatre.


2014 | APACA Conference Hobart, Tasmania
 | Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Perth


Project BLAK


James Berlyn Creator / Performer
James Berlyn is an award‐winning performing artist and lecturer of more than 25 years’ experience. Trained in dance at VCA, he has worked in dance, dance‐theatre, theatre and community art nationally and internationally as a creator, performer, director and curator. James’ hybrid one‐on‐one theatre work Tawdry Heartburn’s Manic Cures (2009) has had more than 1000 performances  across the country including Perth, Brisbane and Sydney Festivals; Ten Days On The Island; WOMADelaide; Enlighten ACT; Festival of Live Art and the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. James is the instigator and co‐founder of Proximity Festival, Australia’s first one‐on‐one performance platform. He was a founding co‐director of Tracksuit, WA’s adult disability performance company supported by DADAA WA. He is WA’s only accredited trainer for Ausdance’s Skill Set: facilitator and assessor and a core artist with Performing Lines WA. James recently returned from Europe where he was an assessor for the 2014 Total Theatre Awards at the Edinburgh Fringe. He also created a new solo work in Basel, Switzerland with director Jim Hughes to be premiered in 2016. Other recent career highlights include his solo theatre work Crash Course (PICA, APACA Conference) and Awesome Festival commissions Dreamstore, Splat! and Twyping. James directed Perth festival shows Tenebrae et Lux (2013) and assisted on You Once Said Yes (2014). He performed in Sue Healey’s Variant (2012), Hydrapoesis’ Prompter, and as Lord High Executioner in ICW Productions The Mikado (2014). James created the role of Agamemnon in Matt Lutton’s Elektra (2012).

Nikki Heywood Director
Nikki Heywood’s work in contemporary performance spans four decades of creating movement-based theatre and dance, which has toured nationally and internationally. Her creations have ranged from devising and directing original work, making work as a solo performer, participating in collective creation and collaboratively devised projects, running skills-based workshops for students and emerging practitioners, and assisting the creative process of others as a mentor and dramaturg. Nikki has been a member of a company training and creating theatre using the approaches pioneered by Grotowski since the early 80’s, and remains committed to the ongoing research and reinvigoration of her performance-making practice. Major influences of Heywood’s past and current work are Body Weather (via Min Tanaka & Tess de Quincey – with whom she worked intensively with in the early 90’s), and improvisational practice; initially with Andrew Morrish, but also with Tony Osborne and in her own studio practice. Nikki is currently undertaking professional development in Body Mind Centering with Alice Cummins and is completing a creative doctorate at University of Wollongong under the supervision of Sarah Miller.
Involved in more than 40 works over her career, the works for which she is best known are  “Burn Sonata”,” Room with No Air”,” One More than One”, and collaboration on Version 1.0’s “Certain Maritime Incident”. More recently she has produced and participated in three works with Belgian director Hans van den Broeck (co-founder Ballets C de la B); was the recipient of the Rex Cramphorn scholarship; engaged in ongoing development of the music-as-theatre work, “Falling Like a Bird”, and presented her practice-based doctoral research at conferences nationally and internationally. Her series “Museum of the Sublime: relics” will continue to unfold next year.
Jenny Vila Lighting Designer
Now based in Perth, Jenny was born in Stockholm, brought up in Spain and Sweden and trained in London, graduating with honours in Technical Theatre from RADA. As a lighting designer in Europe Jenny’s work included “Mara”, “Adios NoNino”, “Egobio”, “Cap Pela”, “Les Formigues” and “Kissing the Goldfish”. In Australia she lit Sue Healey’s “Variant” at the Seymour Centre in Sydney, and “Cured” by Marisa Garreffa in Perth. When not designing lighting, Jenny has worked as Technical Manager for the Singapore Carousel Festival, Venue Director for the New York Fringe and Producer of the Festival Internacional de Teatre Visual i Titelles in Barcelona. Between 2005 and 2010 Jenny was based in the UK where she was the International Producer of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival and also produced both editions of the Norwich International Puppet Festival. She is currently Associate Producer for Barking Gecko Theatre Company and Res de Res and works regularly as a contract producer for organisations such as Perth Festival.

Shaun Salmon Graphic Designer
Shaun Salmon is a published cartoonist, satirist and illustrator and has over twenty years’ experience as a graphic designer and illustrator. His graphic design experience includes work for WA’s Fairbridge Festival, Over the Fence Comedy Film Festival and Sleepy Music. His weekly cartoon strip ‘All Our Yesterdays’ appeared in the West Australian Newspaper’s TV guide from 2002-2006 and other cartoons and illustrations have appeared in The Walkley Magazine, Wet Ink, Scoop (MEAA Newsletter) and online for Ha! Shaun has copious experience as a writer, designer (set/costume) and artist for all manner of theatrical and performance productions including “Love’s Labours Lost” (GRADS), “After the Fair” (Not La Mama) and “Splat!” (Awesome Festival).

Geoff Baker Sound Designer
Geoff Baker is an electronic composer and performer straddling the worlds of pop music and contemporary dance.  As a Pop music composer he has created music for TV shows such as Lip Stick Jungle and Charlie’s Angels, as well as being nominated for WAM Song of the Year. Earlier this year he produced “Polaroid”, an a cappella EP with Dutch singer Vivienne Aerts.   In contemporary dance he scored for Claudia Alessi’s “In This” in 2012, as well for Bianca Martin’s Company Upstairs and James Berlyn’s creative development  “Held Up”.


“James Berlyn has an excellent capacity for creating work which can be packed into a suitcase and pulled out anywhere. His creation of the Winfein language and our subsequent immersion in it takes this idea to a new level. The potential to perform this piece anywhere, no matter what the first language of the participants, suggests enormous potential for the work across the international festival market.” Real Time

“Crash Course is an outstanding example of participatory theatre at its very best. It is simultaneously intimidating and encouraging and gives its audience a glimpse into how well they would cope should they ever need to adapt.Crikey

“A risk-taking production in the immersive theatre tradition, with skill, verve and good-humour, Berlyn makes it work for all participants.” Aussie Theatre

“Berlyn held us all both by his teaching capabilities and his dramatic flair – his character was consistently believable and compelling.  His use of the limited available theatrical resources in the classroom setting was further character reinforcement, but his detailed pantomimes were a pure joy in themselves… A risk-taking production in the immersive theatre tradition, with skill, verve and good-humour, Berlyn makes it work for all participants.” 
Arts Hub

“Before the hour was up, and much to my amazement, I share with my classmates the first, dim sense that understanding, perhaps even mastery of Winfein isn’t unattainable. It’s an exhilarating feeling, an emotion of logic, like that which great music or dance elicits.

Berlyn delivers all this with skill and magnetism. There are little winks and nudges from the “real” world but his command never drops, you never think he is talking anything but cogent, coherent Winfein. 

Crash Course was great fun, it was immensely thought provoking, and, above all, it was very, very kweiloo.”
The West Australian


Producer Contact:

Fiona de Garis
+61 8 9200 6212


In the studio with James Berlyn

Posted: January 11th, 2016