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Salome remixed in a heady brew

17 January 2022

A biblical story collides with COVID as a team of dancers and theatre makers explore the story of Salome. Find out more from deviser and performer Andrew Sutherland in this Festival Sessions interview.

Theatre maker Andrew Sutherland chats with Rosalind Appleby about the dance/theatre work Salome δ which will premiere at The Blue Room’s Summer Nights festival. The collaborative project explores the artists’ responses to the biblical story, reinterpreted through dance, chronic illness and queer desire, in search of the perfect choreography for a crumbling world.

Rosalind Appleby: Hi Andrew. For Seesaw Mag readers who don’t know you, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?

Andrew Sutherland: I am a theatre-maker, from an actor training background, who does my best to create new works of performance as well as moonlight as an author and arts educator. I spent the early years of my adult life and professional practice in Singapore, which strongly shaped my aesthetic practices and politics as an artist, and am now based in Boorloo (Perth), which continues to shape and change my creative practice. I am Queer and HIV+, which feel like central parts of me that strongly inform the work that I make. 

The headshot of Salome creator Andrew Sutherland. Pictured you see his shoulders up, he is wearing a white shirt in front of a vegetation background.
Theatre maker Andrew Sutherland is part of the team presenting ‘Salome δ‘ at Fringe World. Photo supplied

RA: Tell us about the collaborative team behind Salome δ and how you remix the biblical story for Summer Nights 2022.

AS: Salome δ is a dance-theatre collaboration between myself, my frequent collaborative partner and director Joe Lui, two incredible dancer/dance-makers Olivia Hendry and Briannah Davis, and the unreasonably cool fashion designer Declan MacPhail. This work takes as its starting point the dance of Salome and the beheading of John the Baptist – a Bible story, and an opera, and an Oscar Wilde play – and then aggressively remixes it through Olivia and my bodies and the overlap of chronic illness, (queer) desire, and the ways that we continue to wriggle on through a general sense of doom. 

RA: What inspired you to create Salome δ ?

AS: In the middle of 2020, various members of the team undertook a couple of creative developments exploring our various responses to this strange old biblical story. I was particularly interested in the idea of the choreography of a virus within my body – as an HIV+ individual living on antiretroviral therapy in the post-“AIDS crisis” era and as an HIV+ individual living through the strange and ugly echoes of the beginning of the COVID pandemic. So the movement of a virus – and the body in relation to virality – remain embedded in this work, although they are complicated, and challenged, and deepened far beyond my own personal experience by the experiences of everybody in the work.

Liv’s experience of illness in their body is incredibly different to mine. Joe’s experience of living through COVID is incredibly different from mine; etc. What has been exciting is trying to create a work that deals in both the overlaps and the dissonances.

We were also really interested in using text as a compositional or choreographic principle in the structuring of a dance work. So we have been working hard to make something that can be both cohesive and incoherent at the same time. We wanted to explore how these incredibly related but not at all relative experiences and global/personal situations feel; all at once. And we wanted to make something that could feel both in-your-face and incredibly intimate, or tender, at the same time.  

RA: What do you hope audiences will take away from Salome δ ?

AS: I hope that either as they come into the show or at some point during the show, the audience allows themselves the permission to let the experience wash over them, to drop in and out of trying to listen to everything, to feel for their own connections with what is being communicated. And, as always, I also hope they think I’m incredibly hot and then they follow me on Instagram or whatever.

RA: Aside from Salome δ, what are you looking forward to seeing at Summer Nights 2022?

AS:I must shout out to The Complete Show of Water Skiing by Laura Liu. Laura is the future and I believe in her. 

RA: What’s next for you after Summer Nights 2022?

AS: Also during Summer Nights I am directing Mother of Compost by the brilliant Noemie Huttner-Koros. Noemie is a beautiful human and a beautiful theatre-maker who made the exceptional The Lion Never Sleeps a couple of years ago. It’s been a real pleasure and I feel a lot of gratitude to get to work with her for the first time. Later in the year, my first book, Paradise (point of transmission) is coming out with Fremantle Press, so – please buy that. 

RA: What is your favourite part of the playground?

AS: The swings, thank you!

Salome δ plays 27 Jan – 5 Feb at The Blue Room as part of Summer Nights.

Pictured top: Andrew Sutherland and Olivia Hendry are part of the team behind ‘Salome δ‘. Photo supplied

“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!

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Author —
Rosalind Appleby

Rosalind Appleby is an arts journalist, author and speaker. She is co-editor of Seesaw Magazine, author of Women of Note, and has written for The West Australian, The Guardian, The Australian, Limelight magazine and Opera magazine. She loves the percussion instruments which can be found in the uber cool parks.

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