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Q&A/The Festival Sessions/Fringe World Festival/Theatre

Unearthing hidden stories

27 January 2021

Performed in the East Perth Cemeteries, WA Youth Theatre Company’s REST takes its audience on an exploration of the hidden stories of our collective past.

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First presented at Fringe World in 2019, when it took out the coveted Martin Sims Award for best WA production, the 2021 iteration sees five emerging WA artists present a fresh version of REST.

The creative team behind the 2021 production of REST includes Jono Battista, Gabriel Critti-Schnaars, Sebastian Critti-Schnaars, Hannah Davidson and Mitchell Whelan. These five young artists worked together for the first time on WA Youth Theatre Company’s (WAYTCo’s) 2019 production and are excited to be working together again in 2021.

Jono Battista and Mitchell Whelan joined the Fringe Sessions to give us an insight into the 2021 version of REST.

Seesaw: Welcome to the Fringe Sessions, Jono and Mitchell. Some of our readers will be familiar with REST, from your 2019 version (if not, you can read Seesaw’s review). How is this REST different from the first one?
Mitchell Whelan:
REST premiered in 2019 with a cast of 28 (including 25 young West Australian artists). This year under the guidance of WAYTCo Artistic Director James Berlyn we’re remounting it with a cast of three. But don’t worry, all the magic of the East Perth Cemeteries is still waiting for you and while some elements of the work have a new twist, much of the show Perth loved in 2019 has remained intact and is as powerful as ever.

An image from the 2019 production of ‘REST’.

S: What is the inspiration behind REST?
Jono Battista:
James Berlyn, our artistic director and the director for the first production of REST, was fascinated by the question: What does it mean to rest, momentarily, in a place of eternal rest? That’s something we’ve had in mind all the way through to now. We are incredibly lucky to be able to share a space with our audiences that isn’t often open to visitors – there are so many stories and tales hidden throughout the site that haven’t been widely shared.

Something that brings us together as a team is our passion for site-specific works, the various ways you can tell a story, moments of connection, and of course some theatre magic.

S: What makes REST different to all the others on offer at Fringe?
JB:
We’re the only show presented in a cemetery! The unique atmosphere of the space and the journey we want to take you on can’t be experienced anywhere else.

S: Aside from your own show, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe World 2021?
JB and MW: Our top tips for 2021 are WHAT OF IT, BangTown, Backwards Slowly and YUCK Circus’s Deadset, and we’re also excited for FIRE by Kalyakoorl Collective.

S: No interview is complete without reflecting on 2020. How has living through a global pandemic shaped or changed your practice?
MW:
2020 has forced us to think about how we value our time together. Sometimes what’s best for the project isn’t necessarily three hours of fast and furious ideas. Sometimes it’s a friendly check in and a long conversation about Star Wars.

In relation to REST, the pandemic has shifted how audiences can interact with site-specific work which has meant that the audience experience now thoroughly underpins every creative decision we make.

S: What has been your pandemic silver lining?
JB:
The pandemic has made us realise how incredibly lucky we are to be living in Boorloo (Perth) – the way our community handled the early days of lockdown is something I think we can all be very proud of.

S: What is your favourite part of the playground?
JB: The slides! Have to go down as fast as possible, then climb back up the wrong way.
MW: The swings. I wanna go all the way around!

REST plays East Perth Cemeteries, 1-25 February, as part of Fringe World 2021.


“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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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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