Inspired by Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, She’s Terribly Greedy is a visually arresting foray into the mind of a young woman who can’t decide which path in life to follow.
What did you want to be when you grew up? In the theatre show She’s Terribly Greedy, 20-year-old Ellenore Stevens grapples with the fact she wants to be everything — and she wants it now. With five actors playing the past, present, and future versions of the young protagonist, the show shatters the restrictive, patriarchal ideologies that limit the choices presented to women, and highlights the complexity of womanhood.
In her Festival Sessions interview with Isabella Corbett, She’s Terribly Greedy writer and director Eliza Smith explains why a strong attention span is necessary in this fast-paced work unlike any other showing at The Blue Room Theatre’s Summer Nights.
Isabella Corbett: For Seesaw Mag readers who don’t know you, can you tell us a bit about yourself and your work?
Eliza Smith: I’m an emerging theatre-maker and performer living and working on Whadjuk Noongar Boodja. I’d describe my work as ambitious, exciting, and visually arresting. I work in poetry, puppetry, performance art, and fourth wall theatre — whatever creatively excites me at the time.
IC: Tell us about the work you are presenting at Summer Nights 2022.
ES: She’s Terribly Greedy is about Ellenore Stevens, an intelligent and indecisive woman in her 20s who begins to spiral after being asked where she sees herself in five years.
Five actors play out the fracturing of Ellenore into all of her identities, both past and future. She reckons with her insatiable appetite for all life has to offer, all while stuck in an underwhelming and deeply ordinary life.
IC: What inspired you to write and direct She’s Terribly Greedy?
ES: Re-reading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar at the start of 2020 — it’s a novel I return to at least once a year. What captivated me was the infinite plurality of the protagonist Esther Greenwood’s potential and identity, which is constantly at odds with the limited and mutually exclusive life choices afforded to women. Plath uses the metaphor of a fig tree, with each fig representing a different path in life and her protagonist sitting in the tree starving because she wants to eat every single fig. This image excited our entire team, and so She’s Terribly Greedy was born.
Translating the idea of multiple identities across genderqueer, culturally diverse and neurodivergent performers and devisers was exciting for me. Together, we have crafted our own deliciously gritty character who quite literally fractures, divides and multiplies through all of her different selves.
IC: What makes your show different to all the others showing at Summer Nights?
ES: It has to be the use of five actors to splinter a single character across identities and timelines. The subject matter and form of this work demands an unrelenting pace — audiences need to hang onto their hats for this show. We fall down a rabbit hole with Ellenore in the first five minutes and get taken through many twists and turns along the way.
IC: What do you hope audiences take away from your show?
ES: More than anything, I hope audiences relate to the character in some way. There is something very important about staging the inner life of flawed characters — if an audience member can feel slightly less alone as their messiest and ugliest self then my show has done its job.
IC: Take us behind the scenes of your show — what happens backstage?
EC: It sounds like a cliche but behind the scenes, we have been having so much fun with this show. We have one scene where Ellenore isn’t allowed to move — she can only be lifted, pulled, carried, and pushed through this frantic and hilarious party scene. Watching her get lifted in every possible way we could think of — to various degrees of success — had us all tripping over ourselves to offer new moves and make one another laugh. The rehearsals, much like the show, are a complete whirlwind.
IC: Tell us about your creative process.
ES: The creative process for this show has been a collective, generative process driven by image and movement. We began with poetry and text from Plath, some Taylor Swift songs, a suitcase full of dresses, some mirrors, and allowed the work to grow from there. We shared a lot of personal stories about choices, identities, and those “sliding doors” moments in our lives that ended up becoming most of the content for the show.
IC: Aside from your show, what are you looking forward to seeing at Summer Nights?
ES: The Blue Room Theatre has lined up an incredibly exciting Summer Nights Festival for 2022 and I will be doing my absolute best to watch all 12 shows. My top picks are The Complete Show of Waterskiing, The Ugly and Mother of Compost.
IC: What’s next for you after Summer Nights.
ES: The sheer terror this question instils in me is a huge part of the reason I made the show. As an overly ambitious, indecisive young theatre-maker fresh out of uni, I couldn’t tell you what I’ll be doing in a month, let alone a year.
What I do know is that I’ll be doing a residency at PICA over June and July to continue developing a show I started making at university with Will Gammel, Clea Purkis and Nathan Calvert. It’s another work rooted in visual spectacle, gameplay, and politics, and we discover more about it every time we work on it.
IC: What is your favourite part of the playground?
ES: The swings, obviously.
Pictured top: A plentiful feast presents 20-year-old Ellenore Stevens with different futures — but she wants to be everything at once. Photo: Tay Conway
“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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