What if isolation was an Olympic sport? In the absence of the 2020 Olympics, independent local dance theatre company Not Sold Separately will be presenting their comedic alternative. Company co-founders Briannah Davis and Olivia Hendry give Seesaw readers a sneak peek.
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Not Sold Separately is an emerging dance theatre company that was founded in Perth in 2018. Dedicated to creating works that provide a platform for female, gender and culturally diverse, and lgbtqia+ emerging artists, NSS uses humour and emotion to convey contemporary stories through dance.
Seesaw: Tell us about the work you are presenting at Fringe World, The 2020 Isolympics
Olivia Hendry: The 2020 Isolympics is a dance theatre work, centred on a comedic take on isolation, and the range of emotions it evoked. We look at the collective existential crises of millennial creatives in Perth as if it was an olympic sport.
Our athletes are a magnificent line-up of millennials in their prime. They’ve been hiding out at home, wandering aimlessly between their share-house lounge rooms, tiny backyards and ill-equipped kitchens. The tension over the unaccounted-for pile of dishes, mounting in the sink? Palpable.
“Stay Home,” you say? “Unprecedented,” you shout? Why, we’ve endured so many collective emotional and spiritual existential crises in our lives – it’s practically a sport! 2020 certainly ain’t our first rodeo. Join us, as we discover who really deserves gold in these trying times.
S: What inspired you to make The 2020 Isolympics?
OH: I just really love the Olympics. I used to stay up to all hours to watch the swimming greats like Ian Thorpe and Libby Tricket in the early 2000s. Like most, I also had a few crisis moments in isolation. I thought this combination of extreme states, set in a sharehouse, was perfect ground for a hilarious show at Perth Fringe.
S: Take us behind the scenes of The 2020 Isolympics – what happens backstage?
OH: Our creative process has focused on developing character work for each performer. Each person has gone in-depth into their back story, like our adored coach, Ruth Paul, who almost won gold for the 2008 summer Olympics but tragically got period cramps mid-table tennis match and collapsed breaking both wrists after a dramatic fall to her knees.
We find developing a story that may not be completely seen onstage helps the characters understand their role in the overarching story of the piece that is performed.
We’ve also been lucky enough to collaborate with musician Germaine Png who’s created original composition for the show. Unfortunately due to Covid, Germy is stuck in Singapore so all our meetings have been via Zoom. But really, it wouldn’t be a true representation of 2020 without talking to each other through a screen!
S: Indeed! On that topic, how has living through a global pandemic shaped or changed your practice?
OH: Controversially, for me the pandemic allowed me to have a bit of a breakup with dancing. After being forced to rest, I realised how much I prefer working behind the scenes as a director, or on stage as a theatre performer.
BD: Like so many others the pandemic brought me loss of employment, travel, opportunity and fear for the recovery of the arts. However it also brought time to find peace and trust in myself, which has led me to create and seek out work that is more honest to who I want to be. I’ve come through the pandemic trusting my instincts and holding the value of community close.
What has been your pandemic silver lining?
OH: I think for us we actually learned we’re really capable and cool. We hunkered down and churned out applications as we both found ourselves unemployed, and Not Sold Separately became a lifeline. Securing a grant from the City of Perth that’s allowed us to produce this show and being offered the opportunity to perform at a prestigious Fringe Hub venue such as Girls School were both massive achievements for us as a company in its infancy. The pandemic has been tough, but we found ourselves and found each other which is an absolute gift.
S: Aside from your own show, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe World 2021?
OH: We are just so excited at the prospect of more Perth-based artists taking the spotlight! Fringe should be about showcasing the hard-working locals, so we can’t wait to support our community.
But – shameless plug – be sure to catch Briannah in Dawning, a contemporary dance piece reflecting on how our connection to nature re-centres us to find new beginnings. The work is accompanied by live original composition from musician James MacCallum.
S: What is your favourite part of the playground?
BD: The swings! I love the freedom of soaring through the air and feeling weightless looking out to the horizon. Also – have you ever had a sob on a swing?
Pictured top are Briannah Davis, Kimberley Parkin and Mani Mae Gomes. Photo: Hannah Laurent
“The Fringe Sessions” is an annual series of Q&A interviews with artists who will be appearing at Fringe World. Stay tuned for more!
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