The Festival Sessions/What to SEE/Fringe World Festival/Theatre


5 January 2022

Melbourne actors, writers and producers Patrick Livesey and Wil King are bringing their award-winning queer thriller DIRT to Fringe World 2022.

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First presented at Adelaide Fringe in 2021, DIRT strives to educate audiences about LGBTQIA+ persecution in Russia through suspense and seduction.

Isabella Corbett chatted to Patrick Livesey and Wil King, who commissioned, produced and perform in DIRT, to find out more.

Isabella Corbett: Welcome to Seesaw Mag’s Festival Sessions Patrick and Wil. For readers who don’t know you, can you tell us a bit about yourselves and your work?

Patrick Livesey & Wil King: We’re two non-binary actors, writers, and producers from Naarm/Melbourne who also happen to be in a romantic relationship. Scandal! We started dating in 2018 after we auditioned for the same part and then made out at a Lorde concert.

Wil is best known as one of the stars of the ABC/Netflix series Why Are You Like This, playing the role of an outrageous drag queen, Austin. They’re also a writer and singer and Ariana Grande’s future best friend.

Patrick has been writing and producing their shows for four years including The Boy, George, which Joel Creasey performed in last year and Gone Girls, a drag revenge fantasy where Patrick played Julia Gillard fighting to destroy the patriarchy.

We’re both passionate about queer stories told by queer storytellers and it was Wil that ended up getting the part (it’s fine, we’ve dealt with it). 

IC: Tell us about DIRT, the show you are presenting at Fringe World 2022.

PT & WK: DIRT is a play that we commissioned in lockdown last year in response to reports of anti-gay violence across Russia. We came up with the concept and then pitched it to our amazing friend, Angus Cameron, who wrote it, and we then brought on board the incomparable Bronwen Coleman to direct.

The story is about an Australian who travels to Moscow and hooks up with a local tour guide. Things take a dark turn when neither turns out to be who they say they are. Duh Duh DUUUH! It’s a political thriller that doubles as an exploration of international solidarity and the line between activism and saviour-ism. We premiered at Adelaide Fringe 2021, where we won four awards and received a dozen five-star reviews, and we can’t bloody wait to bring it to Perth!

IC: What inspired you to make DIRT?

PT & WK: We’d been reading about what was happening in Russia, with queer people being kidnapped and disappearing in the Russian-occupied state of Chechnya and this fed into a familiar narrative that for us stretched right back to the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. We can remember being teenagers coming to terms with our sexuality and seeing videos on Facebook of gay people being beaten and humiliated. Safe to say, it left an impression.

Fast forward to 2020 and we both felt passionate about trying to raise attention to what was happening, but at the same time felt conflicted about whether this was a story we should be telling. After talking to several queer people who had fled Russia, the one thing they all said was the more people telling this story, the better. We decided to put that confusion around who gets to tell what story at the very centre of the work and DIRT was born!

IC: What makes DIRT different to all the other shows on offer at Fringe?

PT & WK: It’s rare to see a genuinely thrilling thriller in live theatre and we think this is a big part of why the show was so popular in Adelaide. We ran for five weeks and three of those were completely sold out.

The way Wil and I work is very improvisational with a massive focus on allowing our performances to shift and change each night. A lot of the time we don’t even know what’s going to happen so it makes for an exciting night for everyone! For us, it’s that sense of unpredictability which makes the show work so well.

As one reviewer said: “If you are looking for a good thriller, turn off Netflix and take your friends!”

IC: Take us behind the scenes of DIRT – what happens backstage?

PT & WK: Basically, it’s Wil and I being very serious, listening to serious music, making lots of loud noises and occasionally crawling around like bears. It’s hard getting up every night and going to these dark places and the way to get there is pretty bloody bizarre. God bless our show operators who have to endure some crazy sh*t from us night after night! 

IC: What do you hope audiences will take away from DIRT?

PT & WK: We hope first and foremost that audiences are drawn into the twists and turns of the story and leave with more questions than answers. We also hope it motivates people to think about humanitarian issues in a new light, with a strong desire to help others, but maybe a new way of thinking about how we, as people with a massive amount of privilege in this world, are best able to do so. 

DIRT plays Girls School at Fringe World, 26 January – 6 February 2022.

“The Festival Sessions” is an annual series of Q&A interviews with artists who will be appearing in Perth’s summer festivals. Stay tuned for more!

Pictured top: Wil King and Patrick Livesey star in the critically acclaimed queer thriller ‘DIRT’. Photo: Jacinta Oaten

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Author —
Isabella Corbett

Emerging writer Isabella Corbett is a postgraduate journalism student at Curtin University. After completing a Bachelor of Design (Fine Arts) at UWA, she quickly realised that she preferred tip-tapping away on a keyboard writing about other people’s art and hasn’t picked up a piece of charcoal since. At the playground, you’ll find her trying to fly higher than the person next to her on the swings.

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