Drawing parallels with the ancient Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice, This Is Where We Live is a poetic and gritty exploration of first love tarnished by the grips of trauma and isolation.
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Teresa Izzard is a British theatre artist whose work combines movement, music and stories. Trained in dramaturgy with Playwriting Australia and The Blue Room Theatre, she is the producer and director of independent, Fremantle-based production company Feet First Collective and a member of the development program Directors Lab: Melbourne.
Izzard’s latest foray into producing and directing, This Is Where We Live by Vivienne Walshe, follows the powerful, intense love story of two young outsiders living in dusty, rural Australia. She talks to Isabella Corbett about the Griffin Award-winning play making its West Australian debut at Fringe World.
Isabella Corbett: Welcome to the Festival Sessions Teresa. Can you tell us a bit about Feet First Collective?
Teresa Izzard: Feet First Collective is a boutique producing house that makes contemporary independent theatre, with a home studio space in Fremantle, Western Australia. We specialise in making immersive theatre events in unusual spaces; we’re about bold, brave ideas that encompass artistic development for the members of the collective and evocative and challenging experiences for audiences. We’re known for our larger scale immersive works.
IC: And tell us about This Is Where We Live, the show Feet First Collective is presenting at Fringe World 2022.
TI: This Is Where We Live is a chance to see the company’s theatrically bold and physically inventive approach in miniature.
Written by Vivienne Walshe, the play is a challenging two-hander and a story of disconnection and love, featuring Chloe the “bombshell” and “odd boy” Chris. Both 17, they are thrown together in a “nowheresville” of a town in regional Australia and fall in love. But, like their mythic counterparts Orpheus and Eurydice, their story is laced with tragedy.
Chloe comes from a single-parent family with a history of domestic violence, and suffers from dyslexia, while Chris is the son of an English teacher with a love of poetry, literature and jazz. Chris is destined to leave the gravel and the heat but is it a path he has chosen? Chloe has developed coping mechanisms, but will she be able to break the patterns of her life to date?
IC: What inspired you to direct and produce This Is Where We Live?
TI: This work was chosen as an extension of an initiative that myself and the actors – Samuel Addison and Lauren Beeton – have been working on this year: Feet First Collective Training. So, I was looking for a piece that held artistic challenges for us but would also support the vision for Feet First to build towards more sustainable structures. The show was set to run at Melbourne Fringe in 2021 but it was delayed due to COVID-19. We’re hopeful it will have a longer life as a show that could go into schools and even tour regionally.
IC: What makes your show different to all the others on offer at Fringe?
TI: It’s one of the most intriguing scripts I’ve ever come across; a poetic and provocative work that delves into some dark material, as well as some lighter moments! So, come along and see how we solved all the challenges and questions it threw at us in the rehearsal process.
IC: What do you hope audiences will take away from This Is Where We Live?
TI: I’d love it if part of the conversation revolved around the form we created and the power and vulnerability of the performances.
The content of this work also asks its audiences to consider the depth of developmental damage that can be hidden under the surface of young adults — any conversations about that pressing issue would be welcome. Chloe’s family situation and patterns weigh very heavily on her shoulders, and she sees her future as inevitable. What can we do to support people — not just young people — who battle these feelings every day? And whilst Chris has more advantages in life, he still struggles against adversity.
IC: Take us behind the scenes of This Is Where We Live – what happens backstage?
TI: We’re a tight-knit team and we’ve worked together before, so there’s always a lot of laughter, a lot of food, and a lot of fun.
IC: Tell us about your creative process.
TI: Every rehearsal has an experimental edge, as we work physically to generate the performance score using a range of corporeal approaches, including Viewpoints (an acting method that encourages actors to focus more on observation and movements, rather than their characters’ psychology). We try things out, we play, and we follow our intuition. There’s also rigour, so we train together and work towards detail.
IC: Aside from your show, what are you looking forward to seeing at Fringe World 2022?
TI: At Feet First, one of our goals is to support other artists with mentorship and in-kind rehearsal space. So, I’m keen to see our umbrella company Broken Crayon Productions at Connections and AJ’s Box: Coming Again at Girls School.
IC: What’s next for you after Fringe World 2022?
TI: Feet First Collective is in pre-production for its second original immersive work Medusa and we’re working towards a season at The Rechabite in July 2022. We’re also touring This Is Where We Live to Theatreworks as part of Melbourne Fringe in October 2022.
Pictured top: Samuel Addison and Lauren Beeton star as young ‘outsiders’ in love in ‘This Is Where We Live’. Photo: John Congear
“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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