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Follow the fun with Dr AudiYO

1 September 2023

Meet Holly Austin AKA Dr AudiYO, a beat-boxing clown who’s coming to this year’s Awesome Festival to save us from the dreaded silence.

Sydney-based performer and writer Holly Austin is the ultimate chameleon, morphing with apparent ease from playing fiery chef Skye O’Dwyer on Amazon Prime’s queer dark comedy Deadloch, to winning over kids with her beatboxing superhero alter ego Dr AudiYO.

Holly Austin. Photo: Alex Vaughan

You might have caught the NIDA-trained theatre maker on one of her previous visits to Perth – she graced our stages in Virginia Gay’s Cyrano last year, and in Ruby’s Wish – a play she co-write with Adriano Cappelletta – at the 2018 Awesome Festival. Or maybe you caught her ABC Fresh Blood series, Ultimate Fanj, with all its kooky dark but somehow very familiar comedy? If not it’s worth checking out clips from the show on Austin’s website.

Now Austin is heading back to Awesome, with her solo show Dr AudiYO’s Giant Adventure, which comes to Perth off the back of seasons in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane. Described as “a sound-led choose-your-own-adventure show”, Dr AudiYO’s Giant Adventure is about a clown/beatboxing superhero who must save everyone from a villain who wants to silence the city. Armed with a “magic looping fanny pack”, she’ll be asking for the audience’s help as she takes on the foe.

Ahead of the Perth edition of Dr AudiYO’s Giant Adventure, Nina Levy was keen to talk to Austin about what we can expect from the show, how she learnt to beatbox, how she chooses what to parody and more.

Nina Levy: Dr AudioYO is no stranger to long-term Awesome audiences as she appeared in Ruby’s Wish at the 2018 Awesome Festival, but for those who weren’t there, tell us about the character of Dr AudiYO.

Holly Austin: Dr AudiYO is like the cooler, superhero version of me – if I could beatbox my way out of any jam. She came to life because I wanted to jam-pack all the fun stuff I love – like clowning, beatboxing, and techie wizardry – into one awesome character. Imagine if your inner child had superpowers; that’s Dr AudiYO!

And yes it’s true that Perth Awesome Festival audience’s may have already met Dr AudiYO in Ruby’s Wish. In Ruby’s Wish, she was a beatboxing clown doctor who helped Ruby, a seven and three quarter year old with a big imagination, get her wish. In this next show, Giant Adventure, she’s a beatboxing DJ slash super hero on a mission to take down the Giant who’s on a rampage to silence the city.

‘Get ready to be part of the story, to make some noise.’ Holly Austin as Dr AudiYO. Photo: Pippa Samaya

NL: And what can audiences expect from Dr AudioYO’s Giant Adventure?

HA: Giant Adventure is defiantly just that… one GIANT adventure and a real ride for your imagination!

Expect the unexpected. This is not a sit-down-and-clap-kind-of-show. Get ready to be part of the story, to make some noise, and to go on a wild ride with giants and magical cats.

NL: How did you get into beatboxing? It doesn’t seem like a skill you’d have picked up while you were training at NIDA?

HA: I grew up in a really remote part of the Blue Mountains and from a young age I spent the long car rides commuting to and from school annoying my poor little sister with my nonstop “mouth music”.

However it was actually at NIDA when jamming with some class that I discovered my annoying mouth music was actually called beatboxing and an actual musical skill! I then began to develop my party trick and eventually found myself jumping up on stages with the likes of Common and John Butler.

NL: What draws you to making work for children?

HA: Children bring a sense of wonder and imagination that is incredibly invigorating. The directness and honesty of young audiences make the work immediately rewarding. And in a work like Giant Adventure it allows the exploration of themes like bravery and collective action in a way that is both fun and meaningful.

One of my most favourite things to experience as the show unfolds is the connection that forms between the kids and their adults – the kids lead the adults to be brave and silly!

NL: You’ve also made and performed in plenty of work that is definitely NOT aimed at kids, including the recently released Amazon Prime series Deadloch, in which you play Skye O’Dwyer. It’s so refreshing to see a series that centres the experiences of queer women – why do you think Deadloch has captured the attention of so many people, queer or not?

HA: Deadloch really is a thrilling watch and it was such a privilege to get to play hotheaded chef Skye O’Dwyer alongside such an extraordinary talented female queer-led cast. The Kates (creators of Deadloch Kate McLennan and Kate McCartney) have truly created such a ground-breaking genre-bending genius of a show. They’ve shone the spotlight on characters that don’t often get to be front and centre on our screens and it’s so encouraging to see that audiences are hungry for diverse and authentic stories.

NL: Your series Ultimate Fanj, was presented by the ABC’s Fresh Blood, an initiative to support new independent comedy. Ultimate Fanj is at once absurd and absolutely recognisable, which is one of the reasons it’s so funny. How do you choose what to parody? How do you know what’s ripe for the picking?

HA: I’m always drawn to the weird, wack, surreal and absurd as I think it gives audiences a jolt, like a defibrillator to our sense of humour that helps us sit up and pay attention and question our everyday.

Holly Austin as Dr AudiYO. Photo: Pippa Samaya

NL: Your career to date is so rich and diverse – you’ve worked across tv and live performance, as a writer and performer, you’re also a musician and a beatboxer – when you look back on what’s happened so far, what would you say have been pivotal moments?

HA: It really has been diverse indeed. However I feel like they are all a part of the same idea… sharing stories that celebrate the power of imagination through humour and heart to inspire connection and create community.

Some moments I’ve loved so far in no particular order are:

• Loop pedal jams with comedian Reggie Watts, touring across Australia with Fergus Brown supporting Martha Wainwright,
• Beatboxing in Manhattan with John Butler,
• Going to clown school in Switzerland,
• Drumming for Sui Zhen at SXSW in Texas,
• Winning Queer Screen’s Pitch Off completion with Zoe McDonald for our television comedy Butch,
• Playing opposite my first love and dear friend Kate Box in Amazon Prime’s Deadloch,
• Swimming with a whale shark in Ningaloo with Virginia Gay after performing in her big queer hearted adaptation of Cyrano for Perth Festival and last but not least…
• Bringing our first show at The Public Theatre in NYC with my best friend a create collaborator Adriano Cappelletta and us both walking into the mop cupboard instead of the stage door… we almost died laughing.

NL: And what are you working on currently? What’s next for you?

HA: I had a tutor when I was studying improvisation in Chicago at io (Improv Olympic) whose catch phrase was “Follow the Fun” and it’s always stuck with me and has become a bit of a mantra for living. Suffice to say there’s a bunch of fun projects in the pipeline – Adriano and I have been commissioned to create a new family work for Perth’s own Barking Gecko with the amazing Luke Kerridge.

I also have a new solo work theatre work in development with Giant Adventure director Miles O’Neil about the interconnectedness of all things, utilising 4D spacialised sound… complete with a choir and a piñata!

I also want to continue my work in screenwriting, especially focusing on projects that offer diverse and authentic representation.

So stay tuned for more adventures Seesaw!

Dr AudioYO’s Giant Adventure plays the Awesome Festival 26-30 September 2023.

Pictured top is Holly Austin. Photo: Nathaniel Dean

A taste of Austin’s beatboxing.

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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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