Two young women dancing
Dance, Features, News, Performing arts

No ceilings for young dance makers

Two recent graduates of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts’ dance program, Briannah Davis and Olivia Hendry, are the artists behind new dance theatre collective Not Sold Separately.  Amy Wiseman chatted to the pair about their upcoming debut season “ceilings.”, and how they have navigated the transition from training to profession.

Two girls drinking tea
Olivia Hendry and Briannah Davis. Photo: Sarah Sim.

Amy Wiseman: Tell me about “ceilings.” and the two works you are presenting within this program.
Not Sold Separately: “Drug Aware presents: ceilings.” is a double bill encompassing two new dance works: Bloom, choreographed by Briannah Davis, and No Mandarin’s An Island, choreographed by Olivia Hendry.

We have joined forces as Not Sold Separately because we are interested in similar subject matter – expressing the female experience. We feel it is important, both for our own artistic careers and for those of our peers, to provide a platform for young female voices to tell their stories through multidisciplinary performance. Both works feature all-female casts of recent WAAPA graduates, along with collaborating composer Annika Moses.

Bloom (Davis) explores how we support those we are close to in times of need; falling apart and building each other back up again, influencing our personal growth.

No Mandarin’s An Island (Hendry) focuses on the “islands” or states of existence we inhabit, based on life’s experiences. Quirky, disarming and evocative, the work is jam packed with ideas exploring togetherness, isolation and how we choose to take up space.

AW: What made you decide to present your own independent season outside of the Fringe World umbrella?
NSS: Fringe is such a bustling time of year in Perth. We felt this work was at risk of being lost amongst the bombardment of material that is produced at that time. We are also both involved with another performance collective called SYNDICATE, that presented during Fringe, and we felt “ceilings.” deserved our undivided attention.

We saw an opportune space in the calendar for April, when we knew our voices would be heard, as well as allowing ourselves the appropriate amount of time to really refine our ideas and present them in a sophisticated way.

AW: What are some of the challenges you’ve come across as young emerging choreographers and producers? And any wins?
NSS: Our biggest challenges have arisen on the producing side of things, as opposed to choreographing. Basically, every choice we make and every obstacle that presents itself is one we have not faced before – so there is a learning opportunity around every corner. Perhaps the most startling challenge has been selling tickets and expanding our viewer demographic. We have amazing amounts of support behind us from connections made at WAAPA, but we are new to the broader independent performance community.

Our biggest win has been receiving a Drug Aware YCulture grant through Propel Youth Arts WA, which has definitely helped us to stay afloat and learn all the varying aspects of show-making as they occur.

AW: What would you say is the most difficult thing about the transition from student to professional?
OH: I think what’s most difficult is coordinating schedules. Once you leave the university bubble, you realise that not everyone exists in the same time frame as you used to, so getting a cohesive cast together and finding the (often unpaid) time to work on the project is a challenge. It takes a lot of sacrifice and forward thinking. But with experience and understanding it becomes more manageable.

BD: I think often the hardest part is believing in yourself. As a student, the professional world seems daunting and out of reach. However, anything can be achievable if you give yourself the chance to actually try it. I know I still have a long way to go but choreographing and producing our own show has given us so much insight into how much work goes on behind the scenes, and I know that learning these skills straight out of university will help me continue making and dancing into the future.

AW: What advice do you have for other aspiring choreographers and/or future graduates?
NSS: Just put yourself out there. There are so many artists who have come before you, who are incredibly generous with their time and want you to succeed – we have been blown away by the support we have received. You just have to be present, show your face and ask. Take risks worth taking, take matters into your own hands, and know that right now is your time to learn and grow – so use it wisely.

ceilings. plays Studio C5, Huzzard Studios April 4-6.

Pictured top: Olivia Hendry and Briannah Davis. Photo: Sarah Sim.

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Features, News, Performing arts

2018 Performing Arts WA Awards nominations

The nominees for the 2018 Performing Arts WA (PAWA) Awards have been announced.

Traditionally covering theatre, in 2018 the PAWA Awards were expanded to include dance. The twelve theatre, six dance and five shared design awards will be presented at the 2018 PAWA Awards gala event, Monday 29 April, from 7pm, at the State Theatre Centre of Western Australia.


Best Mainstage Production, presented by Hawaiian
Hir – Black Swan State Theatre Company
Stay With Us – The Last Great Hunt
Summer of the Seventeenth Doll – Black Swan State Theatre Company
Xenides – Black Swan State Theatre Company
You Know We Belong Together – A Black Swan, Perth Festival and DADAA Co-Production

Best Independent Production
Frankie’s – The Blue Room Theatre & Variegated Productions
godeatgod – The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights & Squid Vicious
The Inconsequential Lives of Little Fish – The Blue Room Theatre & Frieda, Sam & Friends
Let me finish. – The Blue Room Theatre & Charlotte Otton
Unveiling: Gay Sex for Endtimes – The Blue Room Theatre & Renegade Productions

Best New Work
Samantha Chester & Ensemble – HIRO: The Man Who Sailed His House, Samantha Chester
Julia Hales with Finn O’Branagain and Clare Watson – You Know We Belong Together, A Black Swan, Perth Festival and DADAA Co-Production
Barbara Hostalek – Banned, Mudskipper Productions
Libby Klysz & Ensemble – Frankie’s, Variegated Productions
Terence Smith – 52 Hertz, Beyond the Yard

Best Newcomer
Cassidy Dunn – The Talk, The Last Great Hunt
Mackenzie Dunn – Assassins & Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Black Swan State Theatre Company
Julia Hales – You Know We Belong Together, A Black Swan, Perth Festival and DADAA Co-Production
Frieda Lee – The Inconsequential Lives of Little Fish, The Blue Room Theatre & Frieda, Sam & Friends
Angela Mahlatjie – Let me finish., The Blue Room Theatre & Charlotte Otton

Best Supporting Actor (Male)
Geoff Kelso – Assassins, Black Swan State Theatre Company
Russell Leonard – Slap & Tickle, The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights & The Kabuki Drop & WAYJO
Will O’Mahony – Assassins, Black Swan State Theatre Company
Igor Sas – Hir, Black Swan State Theatre Company
Mararo Wangai – Improvement Club, The Last Great Hunt

Best Supporting Actor (Female)
Caitlin Beresford-Ord – Assassins, Black Swan State Theatre Company
Mackenzie Dunn – Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Black Swan State Theatre Company
Vivienne Garrett – Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Black Swan State Theatre Company
Jo Morris – Josephine!, The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights & Second Chance Theatre
Morgan Owen – Court My Crotch, The Blue Room Theatre & FUGUE

Best Actor in a Mainstage Production (Male), presented by Artist Management Australia
Jacob Allan – Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Black Swan State Theatre Company
Gary Cooper – Skylab, Black Swan State Theatre Company & Yirra Yaakin Theatre Company
Sam Longley – Tom Vickers and the Extraordinary Adventure of his Missing Sock, Spare Parts Puppet Theatre & Western Australian Museum
Will O’Mahony – Hir, Black Swan State Theatre Company
Kelton Pell – Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Black Swan State Theatre Company

Best Actor in a MainStage Production (Female), presented by Moore Creative Artists
Julia Hales – You Know We Belong Together, A Black Swan – Perth Festival and DADAA Co-Production
Monica Main – The Swash-Line Secret!, The WA Museum Shipwrecks Gallery
Amy Mathews – Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Black Swan State Theatre Company
Toni Scanlan – Hir, Black Swan State Theatre Company
Alison van Reeken – Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Black Swan State Theatre Company

Best Actor in an Independent Production (Male), presented by Media Super
Humphrey Bower – HIRO: The Man Who Sailed His House, The Blue Room Theatre & Samantha Chester
St John Cowcher – Frankie’s, The Blue Room Theatre & Variegated Productions
Sam Hayes – The Inconsequential Lives of Little Fish, The Blue Room Theatre & Frieda, Sam & Friends
iOTA – Slap & Tickle, The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights & The Kabuki Drop & WAYJO
Andrew Sutherland – Unveiling: Gay Sex for Endtimes, The Blue Room Theatre & Renegade Productions

Best Actor in an Independent Production (Female), presented by Media Super
Holly Jones – Banned, The Blue Room Theatre & Mudskipper Productions
Frieda Lee – The Inconsequential Lives of Little Fish, The Blue Room Theatre & Frieda, Sam & Friends
Esther Longhurst – Frankie’s, The Blue Room Theatre & Variegated Productions
Della Rae Morrison – Banned, The Blue Room Theatre & Mudskipper Productions
Clare Testoni – The Beast and The Bride, The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights & Bow & Dagger

Best Director of a Mainstage Production
Gita Bezard – The Talk, The Last Great Hunt
Jeffrey Jay Fowler – In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play, Black Swan State Theatre
Adam Mitchell – Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Black Swan State Theatre Company
Zoe Pepper – Hir, Black Swan State Theatre Company
Clare Watson – You Know We Belong Together, A Black Swan, Perth Festival and DADAA Co-Production

Best Director of an Independent Production
Susie Conte – Lysistrata, Tempest Theatre
Libby Klysz – Frankie’s, The Blue Room Theatre & Variegated Productions
Joe Lui – Unveiling: Gay Sex for Endtimes, The Blue Room Theatre & Renegade Productions
Scott McArdle – Josephine!, The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights & Second Chance Theatre
James McMillan – Court My Crotch, The Blue Room Theatre & FUGUE


Best Production
Dracula – West Australian Ballet
Dust on the Shortbread – Anything Is Valid Dance Theatre
Structural Dependency – Brooke Leeder & Dancers, with Louis Frere-Harvey, Nemo Gandossini-Poirier and Matthew Thorley
“WA Dance Makers Project” – Co3 Australia

Best New Work
Carly Armstrong, Jessica Lewis & Amy Wiseman – You Do Ewe, WA Dance Makers Project,
Unkempt Dance
Serena Chalker & Quindell Orton – Dust on the Shortbread, Anything Is Valid Dance Theatre
Brooke Leeder & Dancers – Structural Dependency
Krzysztof Pastor – Dracula, West Australian Ballet

Best Newcomer
Michelle Aitken – Future’s Eve, Paper Mountain
Tanya Brown – In-Lore Act II, WA Dance Makers Project, Co3 Australia
Sarah Sim – Structural Dependency, Brooke Leeder & Dancers & Natalie Allen’s Sisters Vice from In SITU, Emma Fishwick & Kynan Hughes in association with STRUT Dance, Tura New Music & Artrage
Luci Young – Frank Enstein, Co3 Australia

Best Performer (Male)
Eric Avery – Dancing with Strangers as part of “Burrbgaja Yalirra (Dancing Forwards)”, Marrugeku & PICA
Zachary Lopez – Frank Enstein, Co3 Australia
Andrew Searle – “WA Dance Makers Project”, Co3 Australia
Oscar Valdés – La Sylphide, West Australian Ballet

Best Performer (Female)
Floeur Alder – Beyond, Supported by Ochre Contemporary Dance Company
Marlo Benjamin – Love/Less, Kynan Hughes & MoveMe Festival
Ella-Rose Trew – “WA Dance Makers Project”, Co3 Australia
Miranda Wheen – Miranda as part of Burrbgaja Yalirra (Dancing Forwards), Marrugeku & PICA

Best Director or Choreographer
Kynan Hughes – Love/Less, Kynan Hughes & MoveMe Festival
Brooke Leeder – Structural Dependency, Brooke Leeder & Dancers
Grayson Millwood & Gavin Webber – Frank Enstein, Made by The Farm in collaboration with Co3 Australia
Unkempt Dance – You Do Ewe, WA Dance Makers Project, Co3 Australia


Best Sound Design
James Brown & Laurie Sinagra – Frank Enstein, Made by The Farm in collaboration with Co3 Australia
Ben Collins – Seeking basics needs and other tales of excess, PICA & Renée Newman with Ben Collins
Ben Collins – The Talk, The Last Great Hunt
Joe Lui – Unveiling: Gay Sex for Endtimes, The Blue Room Theatre & Renegade Productions
Eden Mulholland – In-Lore Act II as part of WA Dance Makers Project, Co3 Australia

Best Lighting Design
George Ashforth – Court My Crotch, The Blue Room Theatre & FUGUE
Matthew Cox – “Burrbgaja Yalirra (Dancing Forwards)”, Marrugeku & PICA
Joe Lui – Love/Less, Kynan Hughes & MoveMe Festival
Phoebe Pilcher – Unveiling: Gay Sex for Endtimes, The Blue Room Theatre & Renegade Productions
Trent Suidgeest – Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, Black Swan State Theatre Company

Best Stage Design
Maeli Cherel – The Inconsequential Lives of Little Fish, The Blue Room Theatre & Frieda, Sam & Friends
Stephen Curtis – “Burrbgaja Yalirra (Dancing Forwards)”, Marrugeku & PICA
Phil R. Daniels – Dracula, West Australian Ballet
Sohan Ariel Hayes – Ngarlimbah as part of “Burrbgaja Yalirra (Dancing Forwards)”, Marrugeku & PICA
Tyler Hill – Hir, Black Swan State Theatre Company
Rhys Morris – HIRO: The Man Who Sailed His House, The Blue Room Theatre & Samantha Chester

Best Costume Design
Alicia Clements – In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play, Black Swan State Theatre Company
Stephen Curtis – “Burrbgaja Yalirra (Dancing Forwards)”, Marrugeku & PICA
Charles Cusick Smith – Dracula, West Australian Ballet
Lexi De Silva – La Sylphide, West Australian Ballet
Lynn Ferguson – Assassins, Black Swan State Theatre Company
Tarryn Gill – Hir, Black Swan State Theatre Company

Best Composition or Arranging
Michael Brett – Dracula, West Australian Ballet
Sascha Budimski – Love/Less, Kynan Hughes & MoveMe Festival
Georgina Cramond – Josephine!, The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights & Second Chance Theatre
Ekrem Mülayim – HIRO: The Man Who Sailed His House, The Blue Room Theatre & Samantha Chester
Nat Pavlovic – Night Sweats, The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights & Static Drive Co

Head to the Perth Theatre Trust website to book tickets for the 2018 PAWA Awards gala event.

Pictured top: Black Swan State Theatre Company’s production of ‘Hir’. Pictured: Will O’Mahony, Toni Scanlan and Igor Sas. Photo: Daniel James Grant.

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A woman singing against a pink drape.
Features, Music, News, Opinion

Balancing the scale

Did anyone else notice?

Featured among the international artists appearing at the Perth Festival were two local composers, and they were both women.

Cat Hope’s searing opera Speechless made a profound impact on audiences at its premiere and scores by Rachael Dease were a large part of the success of the daring dance theatre work Sunset (STRUT Dance and Maxine Doyle, with Tura New Music) and the children’s theatre piece A Ghost in My Suitcase (Barking Gecko Theatre).

A female singer on a dark stage
Composer Rachael Dease in “Sunset”. Photo: Anthony Tran.

It went unmentioned – as it should. A woman composer headlining a national festival shouldn’t be exceptional. Yet until very recently it has been. As we celebrate International Women’s Day today it is worth remembering that the playing field has not been even for women in the arts and in many ways they are still playing catch up.

Everything I’ve ever wanted to do would’ve been easier had I
been a boy. But never mind, I never paid much attention to it,
I just marched in and there I was.

These fighting words come from Peggy Glanville-Hicks (1912-1990), arguably the most famous female composer in her lifetime and one of the first Australian women to march into the male-dominated world of composition.

Back then the costs were high: Glanville-Hicks’ colleague Margaret Sutherland was married to a psychiatrist who thought a woman wanting to compose music was a sign of mental illness, while many women had to lie about their gender to be published. Positions on the boards and in the institutions were held by men, who also received the majority of the commissions. In spite of this Sutherland almost single-handedly pioneered modernism in Australian music and in 1938 Glanville-Hicks was the first person to represent Australia at the International Society of Contemporary Music.

Australian women have made a significant contribution to Australian music history, a subject I researched and celebrated in my book Women of Note; the rise of Australian women composers (Fremantle Press 2012). As I pieced together the missing jigsaw pieces of our music history it became startlingly clear that our women composers have substantially shaped our history, often punching above their male contemporaries and often against great odds.

Today Dease, Hope and their female colleagues make up around 27 percent of Australian composers, sound artists and improvising performers. Sadly our concert programs (in any musical genre) don’t reflect anywhere near this statistic. Musicologist Sally Macarthur noted in 2013 that only 11 percent of the works in Australian new art music concerts advertised online featured works by women. And you can scour the West Australian Symphony Orchestra’s 2019 program without finding any female composers represented.

Album cover for Women of NoteFortunately some organisations and individuals are rethinking their approach to inclusive programming and commissioning. ABC Classic has begun to intentionally program more music by women on its airwaves and, as part of International Women’s Day, has scheduled four days of music entirely by women. The station has also released an album titled Women of Note which celebrates 100 years of music by Australian women. This contribution towards a more balanced canon of music is a crucial part of rewriting history and normalising gender diversity for future generations.

The album includes music by Sutherland, Glanville-Hicks and other trailblazing works including Miriam Hyde’s first Piano Concerto, premiered in 1934 by the composer with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, plus Dulcie Holland’s highly regarded Piano Trio, a work that was unperformed for nearly fifty years before it was unearthed and premiered at the Adelaide Composing Women Festival in 1991.

The album also pays tribute to living composers such as Anne Boyd whose As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams (1975) was an early precursor of minimalism. Elena Kats-Chernin, arguably Australia’s most popular and best known composer, is represented with her famous Russian Rag while Yuin woman Brenda Gifford brings insights from her Indigenous culture to the Western classical tradition. And composers such as Sally Whitwell, Maria Grenfell, Kate Moore, Nicole Murphy and Olivia Bettina Davies represent the myriad ways in which classical music is developing in the 21st century.

Which brings us back to Cat Hope and Rachael Dease and their fresh, absolutely unique contributions to the Perth Festival. I hope I wasn’t the only one who noticed. I hope curators, directors and commissioners noticed. I hope commentators, creators and the audience noticed. And I hope future generations of gender diverse composers noticed.

– Rosalind Appleby

To celebrate International Women’s Day Seesaw has copies of ABC Classic’s album Women of Note and Appleby’s book Women of Note; the rise of Australian women composers to give away. To enter, email with “Women of note comp” in the subject heading. Competition closes 5pm, March 11.

Pictured top: Soloist Karina Utomo in Cat Hope’s “Speechless”. Photo: Rachael Barrett.

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A silvery sculpture, on rocks by the ocean
Features, Installation, News, Sculpture, Visual arts

Design in three dimensions

Sitting at the intersection of art, design and academia, Penelope Forlano’s practice is diverse. With a portfolio that ranges from bespoke furniture to large scale sculptures in venues such as Perth Airport and various metropolitan secondary schools, this WA artist, designer and researcher evades simple definition.

With its multi-faceted surface, various angles and fragmented reflections, Forlano’s sculpture Counterpoints, Edition 1 of 3 has shades of its maker. Ahead of  the work’s appearance at Sculpture by the Sea: Cottesloe, Nina Levy spoke to Forlano to find out what drives her multi-stranded work.

Penelope Forlano
Penelope Forlano

Nina Levy: Your practice spans three disciplines – how do you describe what you do?
Penelope Forlano: My career has always been related to the designing the built environment and our experience within it, but my work started shifting more into the categories of sculpture and public art.

My job title has been a steady series of slight transitions as well. My art practice is grounded in this background and my PhD with took on anthropological perspective and methods to inform my creative works.

The academic experience has consolidated what I know from practice but also given me greater insights. I explore people’s engagement with the built environment and their experiences through design, which is academically referred to as design anthropology, but I think it just causes confusion outside (and sometimes inside) the academic world.

I’m interested in how our built environment shapes us and how we shape it. I see it as all part of the same work, but a job title to encapsulate the extent of it all is hard to pin down, so I tend to go with artist, designer and researcher. If anyone has better ideas for better job title, I’m all ears!

NL: Were you interested in the visual arts as a child? At what point did you decide to pursue a career in visual art/design?
PF: I was always busy making something. I never stuck to one thing only. It was when my parents and teachers thought I was destined to be an accountant that I thought, I have to be more serious about art and prove I can succeed at something other than maths! I knew I loved creating and experimenting with ideas and ways of making things, but I wasn’t a natural illustrator. It was the three-dimensional arts that I was most interested in. Theatre set design, sculpture and places that felt like another world or change how you felt got me excited about spatial design and arts. So, I haven’t really moved on from that, now that I think of it in that way.

NL: How do the various strands of your career – design, art and academia – influence one another?
PF: My design, art and research all meld into each other so it all influences each other, but I don’t tend to think of them in distinct categories. Even my PhD was through creative practice so that was definitely making the disciplines intertwined.

Sometimes I think my work, as a result, is all so diverse, but then when I really boil it all down, I see constant threads and similarities. Some people have commented on the scope or diversity as unusual, or that my works are all so different – mainly because of the various mediums – but to me the designs for production and the designs that are singular and large scale or small scaled art are all so closely linked.

NL: You made your Sculpture by the Sea (SxS) debut at Bondi last year with Counterpoints, Edition 1 of 3. What made you decide to exhibit at SxS?
PF: I’ve been working on many large-scale public artworks in WA. Sometimes these projects can last for years. So, I decided to exhibit at SxS Bondi to test out a different market, in a different city and with a smaller work.

Personally, I also wanted the opportunity to watch how a diversity of people of all ages and cultures, interact with artworks in the landscape. So where better to do this than the beauty and allure of Bondi or Cottesloe?

It was wonderful to respond to such an amazing place with a significant history. It’s easy to have lots of ideas on how to respond to Bondi; it’s harder deciding on one. But ultimately, I knew this was a temporary exhibition location for the artwork and because my work is typically bound to site, this gave me the chance to create something that takes on different meaning and properties in various locations. So it was initially inspired by Bondi, but then started taking on other influences as well.

A large mirrored canopy.
Penelope Forlano’s ‘Kaleidoscopic Wave’ (2017) at Fremantle College references the school’s specialist maritime education programs and its coastal location. Photo: Bo Wong.

NL: Tell us about the process of making Counterpoints
PF: I had completed a public artwork at Fremantle College that references the school’s specialist maritime education programs and its location close to water. The work uses stainless steel and we had worked through a number of challenges with the maker and installer to achieve the desired outcome. I thought it would be great to use this process of making for another project. Sculpture by the Sea was an appropriate fit.

I always start by researching the history of the site and its character. The solid and static nature of the 300-million-year-old Hawksbury sandstone juxtaposed by the wild and rough ocean was hard to ignore. I wanted to create something that was stone-like and ancient in form (referencing ancient stone spearheads) and also referenced the water in terms of a drop. The polished stainless-steel material gives it an ephemeral surface like water but evokes longevity as a material.

You can see Counterpoints, Edition 1 of 3 at Sculpture by the Sea: Cottesloe, March 1-18.

Pictured top: Penelope Forlano’s “Counterpoints” at Sculpture by the Sea Bondi 2018. Photo: Jessica Wyld.


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Features, Lectures and Talks, Literature, News, Perth Festival

A writers festival for you

Running from 18-24 February, Perth Festival Writers Week is a feast for the mind, combining an immersive weekend of panel sessions at the University Club at UWA as well as a number of satellite events around Perth. This year marks William Yeoman’s second as Writers Week Curator and, with one successful event already under his belt, he’s excited for what he promises will be an even better program this February. Claire Trolio spoke to Yeoman to find out more.

William Yeoman
William Yeoman

William Yeoman works an eight day week.

Yes, you read that right.  Maintaining his full time job as Books Editor and Arts Writer at The West Australian, he also works two days a week in the Perth Festival offices and steals time early in the morning or in the evenings to make up an extra day. Fortunately, there is some overlap between his jobs, most notably the copious amount of reading required!

To get through those mountains of literature, Yeoman has perfected the art of skim reading. When he’s reading for work and it’s not a text he’d otherwise choose, he is able to familiarise himself with a book in about one hour.

But reading for enjoyment? That’s another story he says. I wonder if there is any time left in his schedule for a leisurely read? “I make time,” he stresses. “If you love the language [of a writer] you need to slow down.” At the moment, Yeoman is savouring Fiona Wright’s collection of essays “The World Was Whole”, ahead of her appearance in two sessions at Writers Week.

Curating Perth Festival Writers Week is a mammoth task and Yeoman doesn’t pretend otherwise. “Let’s be clear, this kind of writers festival is a major international festival. But once you get your head around all that, it’s fine,” he chuckles. To approach the task he starts with a rough idea of the themes he wants to explore and the kinds of authors he wants to invite. But, he stresses, “it’s also about being flexible enough to change your mind and being ready to accept those authors who are offered up to you, sometimes quite late in the piece.”

Jane Caro. Photo: David Hahn.

Jane Caro is one example. The writer and social commentator’s new book Accidental Feminists, is coming out this month and Yeoman jumped at the chance to add her name to the bill. Not only does this make for an up-to-date, relevant program, but Caro is also a big name. “Someone like that is going to raise the profile of the festival,” explains Yeoman.

Entertaining the audience is also high on Yeoman’s list of priorities. “I am big on the ideas of performance and theatre,” he reflects. “Of course, solid, conceptual ideas might be at the heart of that, but hopefully they are presented in an engaging way. Part of creating that experience is related to the kind of guests you invite,” he continues, naming Benjamin Law and Mikey Robins as two 2019 Writers Week guests whose brilliant presentation styles were a big drawcard when planning the program.

As Writers Week Curator, Yeoman considers his responsibility to be “first and foremost, to the reader”. It’s the same way he approaches journalism. This means he must compromise his personal interests and, sometimes his political opinions. “It’s important to have dissenting voices [within a festival], not if they are extreme, but where they are reasonable,” he remarks.

There’s also room in the festival to have some fun, and one of the program highlights for Yeoman himself is Freo Groove, a celebration of the musical history of Fremantle. “To have writers and musicians Claire Moodie and Bill Lawrie together with Lucky Oceans and some of the musicians who feature in their book, in a free, outdoor marquee sundowner – what’s not to like?”

A keen musician himself, he admits to always seeking out musical connections, and the program reflects this. As well as Freo Groove, Yeoman has programmed author and travel editor Stephen Scourfield in conversation with Margaret River based guitar maker Scott Wise (There Are Strings Attached); Jazz High Tea, combining a conversation about The Great Gatsby with live music from WA Youth Jazz Orchestra; and a performance of songs of love and desire in German and English preceding a discussion about singing in translation (Lust in Translation).

The intersection between literature and other disciplines is a feature of Yeoman’s programming. Film, architecture, photography and fashion, as well as music, are represented in this year’s program. Where do you draw the line when it comes to crossing disciplines at a writers festival? “You don’t!” Yeoman responds emphatically. “You find a connection somewhere. If someone has written a book on a topic, well, it’s as easy as that.”

The architectural legacy of Kerry Hill will be discussed by Kerry Hill Architects’ Patrick Kosky and architect Geoffrey London alongside a tour of Hill’s City of Perth Library (Remembering Kerry Hill). And one of Australia’s most famous and respected film critics, David Stratton, will pop by. He’ll discuss hidden cinematic gems (101 Marvellous Movies You May Have Missed) before joining Jane Lydon, Joanna Sassoon and George Kouvaros to consider how moving and still images shape our memories and future (Migration, Memory & Movies).

Benjamin Law

Yeoman is also excited to present madison moore, an American cultural critic, DJ and Assistant Professor of Queer Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. Moore’s first book, Fabulous: The Rise of the Beautiful Eccentric, explores how eccentric style, fashion and creativity is political, particularly in queer culture and non-white cultures. As well as appearing alongside Benjamin Law and Ursula Martinez in panel session A Queer World, moore will present a late-night performance lecture at the State Theatre Centre of WA, exploring the concept of clubs as a safe space for experimentation and self-expression (Dance Mania: A Manifesto for Queer Nightlife).

Evidently, moore’s work ties in closely to what Yeoman has declared to be the theme of Writers Week 2019: Our Imagined Selves. “In fact,” declares Yeoman, “this year’s theme was partly inspired by madison moore.” As beautifully diverse as Yeoman’s 2019 Writers Week program is, this concept ties it together. Stories – both fiction and non-fiction – are the essence of who we are. So as you journey through Perth Festival Writers Week, consider yourself, your own story and how it fits with those around you. Because as much as the festival is about the writers, it’s also about you.

Perth Festival Writers Week runs from 18-24 February 2019. 

Pictured top is madison moore.

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A man and a woman dancing in the bush
Features, News, Performing arts

Home-grown produce

Nina Levy ·

It’s November 1, 2018 and the Perth Concert Hall is packed for Wendy Martin’s final Perth Festival programme launch. Anyone who has paid attention to Martin’s programming over the last four years will know that the Festival’s artistic director is a passionate advocate for contemporary dance. When the banner for STRUT Dance’s Sunset opens her 2019 line-up, however, the ripple of excitement is about more than dance.

It’s a historical moment. A local show is leading the charge.

Martin’s decision to open her final Festival launch with a home-grown show is part of a greater plan to showcase local work in this year’s programme. Alongside a terrific selection of international and interstate works, there are numerous shows and events by local artists and companies that are appearing this year under the newly-created banner, “Made in WA”. That list includes six Festival commissions.

Martin is immensely proud of the 2019 Festival’s local content. “It’s important to have a fantastically curated international programme, but it’s also important that, whichever place you’re in, the artists of that place are seen on the same platform,” she explains.

From the outset Martin’s vision was inextricably linked with WA. “When I [started at Perth Festival, four years ago] I said, ‘There are festivals in cities all over world. The thing that makes a difference is the place in which the festival happens.’ So when I arrived here, I saw myself as a detective, looking for clues and stories and threads to figure out, how I make a festival that really belongs in this place,” she explains.

Martin was immediately struck by what she describes as “the unbelievable list of artists who come from this place, both historically and now“. Her immediate response was to commission “Home” as the opening event of her first Festival, a free, one-night-only celebration of West Australian talent that included the likes of Tim Minchin, the John Butler Trio, Shaun Tan, The Drones, The Triffids and The Waifs.

The much-loved ‘Boorna Waanginy’ will return to Perth Festival in 2019.

The opening event of her second festival, Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speak, was another home-grown special, and one which returns to this year’s Festival. Bringing together the talents of Noongar elder and director Richard Walley, and designers Zoë Atkinson and Sohan Ariel Hayes, under the direction of Nigel Jamieson, Boorna Waanginy sees one of Perth’s most treasured landmarks, Kings Park, transformed by light and sound.

Thus the seeds for the Made in WA programme were sown… but it was an idea that needed time to germinate. “As a curator, you have to know artists and they have to know you, and there needs to be a certain level of trust to be able to work on projects together,” reflects Martin. “So it’s taken this much time, three years living in Perth, to be able to commission all this new work.”

The Last Great Hunt was one of the local first companies to catch Wendy Martin’s attention. Pictured is a scene from ‘Le Nor’ which will premiere at this year’s Festival.

When it came to choosing which shows to commission under the new Made in WA banner, one company caught Martin’s eye early on. “From the time I began [at Perth Festival] I could not believe that The Last Great Hunt, who had toured the world, had never been in Perth Festival,” she remarks.

Martin wasn’t going to rush into anything though. “I had so many meetings, across the years, with Tim [Watts] from The Last Great Hunt. I kept saying, ‘Come on, give me something, I’d love to have you guys in the Festival…’ and then I saw New Owner [by The Last Great Hunt, commissioned by the Awesome Festival] and I loved it. If I’d have known about that show I would have loved to have had it in Perth Festival… but of course, it’s fantastic that it was in Awesome, which is an amazing Festival.

“[Tim and I] met about three times. He wanted to experiment with form and what I didn’t understand – because at that point I didn’t know him well enough – is that Tim is a wonderful storyteller, but he doesn’t start with the idea, he starts with the form of the production.”

And then The Last Great Hunt pitched the idea for Le Nor, a work that weaves together film and live performance, so that audiences witness both an on-screen story and behind-the-scenes action. “When Tim did his pitch for Le Nor I was almost crying, because I thought it was so magic, such a beautiful idea, funny and poetic,” Martin recalls. “Tim’s work, at its core has big heart … and as a programmer that’s one of the things I care about most.”

Glamorous woman in a black pillbox hat
Natalie Allen in ‘Sunset’, a new work created by WA’s STRUT Dance, in collaboration with UK dance theatre company Punchdrunk. Photo: Simon Pynt.

Another commissioned work that is close to Martin’s heart is STRUT Dance’s Sunset. Created in collaboration with UK choreographer and director Maxine Doyle (associate director and choreographer, Punchdrunk), in association with Tura New Music, Sunset is an immersive dance theatre work that takes audiences on a walking tour of Dalkeith’s Sunset Heritage Precinct. “Sunset is like a dream in terms of my programming aims,” she explains. “It’s a collaboration between a great international artist and local artists, it speaks to the history of this place, it’s a collaboration with more than one [local] artist and company – as well as STRUT and Tura New Music, Rachael Dease is the composer and doing the sound design, and Bruce McKinven is doing the set. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for the artists here to work with an absolute game changer. UK dance theatre company Punchdrunk have created whole new form of immersive theatre … to have someone like [Punchdrunk’s associate director and choreographer] Maxine Doyle in our midst, excited by this place… you couldn’t really ask for more.”

No words: Cat Hope’s ‘Speechless’. Pictured are the hands of the four soloists, Tara Tiba, Sage Pbbbt, Judith Dodsworth and Karina Utomo. Photo: Paul Tadday.

WA’s Tura New Music is involved in a second 2019 Festival commission, producing Cat Hope’s new opera, Speechless. In the case of Speechless, a response to the issue of children in detention that combines four soloists, a 30-voice choir, the Australian Bass Orchestra and Decibel new music ensemble, it was the motivation behind the work that appealed to Martin. “I love that Cat is an activist and a great humanitarian,” she reflects. “She was so disturbed by the decisions that the government was making in our name. So she felt the best thing that she could do is make a personal, artistic response. She read the Gillian Triggs report into children in detention and then figured out this beautiful concept which is her graphic score. The music she has written has kind of been written over the photographs and drawings that the children have done. In a way she’s giving these kids a voice by responding so directly to their art work. There are no words because those people have no voice. Cat is a really important Australian artist.”

Man in front of Mill
Lost and Found Artistic Director, Chris van Tuinen, pictured at Jarrahdale Heritage Mill, where ‘Ned Kelly’ will be presented. Photo: Nik Babic.

Like The Last Great Hunt, Lost and Found Opera was on Martin’s radar from early on. Renowned for presenting unusual operas in unexpected but effective spaces, Lost and Found will be presenting its first commissioned opera, Ned Kelly, in a Jarrahdale saw mill. “Lost and Found Opera have been doing super exciting work,” enthuses Martin. “I think they have a brilliant concept and the fact that they now want to create a work from scratch – they have such a track record that you just have to trust that they’ll deliver. They’ve also got a great following… but I think the platform of the Festival will make it more recognisable.”

Three woman. One looks scared, one is ready to fight, one is calm.
A rip-roaring yarn: ‘A Ghost in My Suitcase’. Photo: Daniel Grant.

Much-loved local company Barking Gecko Theatre also has an established following but stands to broaden its reach by being commissioned to appear on the Festival programme. In terms of Martin’s aims, it was the cross-cultural nature of the work that caught her eye.  “When Matt Edgerton proposed adapting A Ghost in My Suitcase for the stage I was immediately attracted to the possibilities that Gabrielle Wang’s award winning YA novel offers up,” she remembers. “I was excited that Matt wanted to create the production out of deep cross cultural collaboration. It’s a rip-roaring yarn – a great adventure story of a young girl who goes to China and discovers her grandmother is a ghost hunter. It seemed to have all the right ingredients to be a perfect family show for the festival.”

Climate change is at the centre of ‘Kwongkan’. Photo: Tao Issaro

Kwongkan is another Festival commission that is a cross-cultural work, and one that has fascinated Martin as she has watched it evolve. A collaboration between WA’s Ochre Contemporary Dance Company and India’s Daksha Sheth Dance Company, the work brings together Indigenous Australian and Indian performers in a ritual of dance theatre, live music, aerial acrobatics and film. “When the artists pitched the idea to me, they intended to explore the similarities between these two ancient cultures, both of whom dance barefoot, but over the course of three years … the thing that sat at the forefront of their concerns, was climate change,” she explains. “They realised that if we don’t do something now, there will be no trace, not just of ancient cultures, but of anything. So in a funny way, ‘Sand’, which was about touching the earth has now become, ‘Well if we don’t do something, sand is all we’re going to have’. To see the evolution of an idea has been exciting.”

It’s clear that witnessing the germination and blossoming of ideas intrigues and inspires Martin. “As a curator and commissioner of work, that’s the really exhilarating thing,” she remarks, “hearing an idea and being able to play some kind of role in those artists realising their vision by offering the platform of the festival.”

That platform offers greater visibility to the home crowd, but also, potentially, further afield. “I’m hoping that we’ll have international presenters and national presenters coming over to see that work, to consider it for their venues and festivals,” she concludes. “I think that’s a really important role that the Festival can play.

– Nina Levy

Perth Festival opens February 8 and runs until March 3. Head to the Perth Festival website to view the full program, including the six commissioned works from Western Australian artists and companies, and the rest of the Made in WA program.

Pictured top: Ian Wilkes and Isha Sharvani in Tjuntjuntjara, a remote WA Aboriginal community, during the final development of ‘Kwongkan’. Photo: Mark Howett.

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Cabaret, Features, Fringe World, Music, News, Performing arts, Vocal

Channelling the greats

Singer Ali Bodycoat will need no introduction to local jazz aficionados. A regular performer at Perth’s Ellington Jazz Club, she’s also a Fringe World veteran. This year she’s all about powerhouse women, performing solo in “From Bodycoat to Barbra” and joining forces with Jessie Gordon in “Peggy Lee and Judy Garland”.

Ahead of her back-to-back season, Bodycoat sat down with Seesaw for a Fringe Session Q&A.

Profile Headshot of Ali Bodycoat
Ali Bodycoat

Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be a singer?
Ali Bodycoat: I have always wanted to perform – for as long as I can remember I had a huge desire to be in the entertainment industry.

S: Tell us about your training…
AB: The most influential formal training I had came from three incredible women – Sandra Gorringe, my high school drama teacher, Janice Taylor-Warne my classical voice teacher at WAAPA and Helen Matthews, my private jazz voice teacher. To this day, the techniques that were taught to me by these marvellous three are a part of how I approach the stage in any genre. I completed a Certificate of Musical Theatre at WAAPA and literally “fell” into the jazz world in Perth. The greatest lessons are still continuing and these are and always have been, on the job!

S: Describe your artistic practice…
Remember why we are doing this, focus on the music and the reasons behind the song – not yourself, and never, ever break an audience’s pre-conceived notions of the fantasy of being entertained. Most importantly, develop your technique and routines early so you always have that strength to fall back on.

S: What do you love most about what you do?
AB: The joy of giving an experience to an audience – for just one tiny moment, you are their travel guide and you can take them anywhere to which their mind chooses to travel. There is also something incredibly special about making music with a group of musicians who are as behind the music as you are.

S: Career highlight so far?
AB: Performing with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and also the Proms New Years’ Eve Concert with Mark Coughlan at the Perth Concert Hall.

S: Funniest career moment so far?
AB: Oh so countless – each performance has its moments of hilarity – probably being naked onstage but that’s another story…!

S: Tell us about your two Fringe World shows, “From Bodycoat to Barbra” and “Peggy Lee & Judy Garland”
AB: The unforgettable Jessie Gordon and I perform together in “Peggy Lee & Judy Garland”. “From Bodycoat to Barbra” presents the music of Barbra Streisand. Both shows are at the Ellington Jazz Club and are one hour slots jam-packed with the legends of the women and their music!

S: Aside from your show, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe?
AB: As much as possible… get out that programme and DIVE IN!

S: What is your favourite part of the playground?
AB: Well I’ve always had a penchant for a trampoline…

You can catch Ali Bodycoat in 
“Peggy Lee & Judy Garland”, 6 – 10 February 
“Ali Bodycoat Presents – From Bodycoat to Barbra”, 13 – 17 February
at the Ellington Jazz Club on Beaufort Street.

Pictured top: Ali Bodycoat with Jessie Gordon.

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A man sitting at a piano holding up two albums by Kylie Minogue
Cabaret, Features, Fringe World, News, Performing arts

He should be so lucky

It all started with Madonna, says Michael Griffiths. The award-winning Australian cabaret performer has been touring Fringe festivals with his tribute acts since 2014. His new show Songs by Kylie traces the pop princess’s rise from Neighbours to music superstardom, and it’s coming to Fringe World 2019.

Ahead of the show, Griffiths took some time to answer Seesaw’s Q&A.

Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be a musician?
Michael Griffiths: I fell in love with pop music at a very early age and grew up playing the piano by ear. Music has always been my first love but actually being on stage came a little later, more in my late teens when I started doing amateur musicals for fun, in my hometown Adelaide.

S: Tell us about your training…
MG: I trained in music composition in Adelaide first, before deciding that being in musicals looked like a far more glamorous means of employment. So I made the big move West to study at WAAPA in the late 90s. I then worked solidly in musicals for about 15 years, in a string of jukebox musicals – SHOUT!, We Will Rock You!, Priscilla and Jersey Boys – and that’s where I really developed my skills.

Cabaret is a newer venture and one which I’ve learned strictly on the job. The best part about it is being reunited with the piano after many years of neglect. There were about ten years where I barely touched one and decided I could no longer play.

S: Describe your artistic practice…
MG: I’m a travelling cabaret performer with a bunch of shows under my belt and have been on the Fringe circuit for over six years now. It all started with a Madonna tribute which I performed in Perth in 2014, followed by tributes to Annie Lennox, Cole Porter and Peter Allen. I’m inclined to steal Barry Humphries’ line and say that I’m “in the business of cheering people up”.

S: What do you love most about what you do?
MG: I love arriving in an old theatre with charm and history. They are very special places and I never tire of them. But at the risk of sounding super corny, making people happy is the best part about what I do.

S: Career highlight so far?
MG: Performing at London’s Royal Albert Hall, on Elton John’s piano with a mirror ball from Kylie Minogue’s Christmas party,  wins hands down.

S: Career lowlight?
MG: Corporate gigs sometimes don’t go so well and I usually try to avoid them. I sang at a car yard launch – why on earth did I say yes to that? – a few years ago and it was like pulling teeth.

S: Funniest career moment so far?
MG: I’ve been Carlotta’s music director the last couple of years and have never laughed so much on stage. She’s a living legend and gets away with absolute murder.

S: What made you decide to come back to Fringe World?
MG: I’ve been coming to Fringe World since 2014 and it’s always such a treat to be back in Perth. I lived on Beaufort St, Mt Lawley in the 90s before it was “zhuzhy” and Perth has been a second home to me ever since. Summer is the best time of year and I adore Perth audiences – they’re very generous and always up for a good time.

S: Tell us about “Songs by Kylie”
MG: I explore the back catalogue of Kylie Minogue, starting out with her time on Neighbours doing the “Locomotion”, teaming up with “hit factory” Stock, Aitken and Waterman, going it alone to find her own voice and her rebirth as the ultimate disco diva. The early songs are such guilty pleasures and so much fun to sing; they always put a big smile on my face. I re-imagine quite a few familiar songs too, so if you’re a Kylie fan like me, there’s some surprises in store. Some songs, such as “Better The Devil You Know”, are pop perfection and you don’t mess with them.

S: What’s your favourite part of the playground?
MG: I love a big long slippery dip 🙂

You can catch Michael Griffiths: Songs by Kylie at De Parel Spiegeltent @ The Woodside Pleasure Garden, January 29 – February 3.

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Circus, Features, Fringe World, News, Performing arts

The ageless craft of circus

Rachel Bodenstaff of CircusWA and Natano Fa’anana of Casus Circus have joined forces and talent to create Cutting Teeth for CircusWA’s Sliders Youth Circus.  Described as ‘a whimsical and fun look at the crossroad of youth and adulthood… a story of coming of age told through the ageless craft of circus’, Cutting Teeth will be performed by circus artists between the ages of 15 and 22.

Ahead of the work’s two Fringe World seasons, Seesaw caught up with Bodenstaff and Fa’anana.

Rachel Bodenstaff

Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be an performer?
Rachel Bodenstaff: I was a “performer” from an early age, putting on shows for my family and getting my parents to film them. Although it was probably through performing at circus school that I realised I wanted to perform/work with artists.

Natano Fa’anana

Natano Fa’anana: I was a pretty late starter. I literally ran away with the circus at the age of 30. I had watched my brothers perform dance and circus but only tried my hand at circus at the age of 29. After that I was obsessed

S: Tell us about your training… 
RB: Most of my training has been “on the job”, but I have had the opportunity to train overseas and interstate for short periods of time.

NF: I like to say I am “backyard trained”. I had some community circus training in the early days but I couldn’t afford to do all the classes so I would train my aerials silks in a tree. In Brisbane I would see someone with skills I admired and that person would teach them to me. So I had no formal training, just informal fun learning.

S: Describe your artistic practice…
RB: My role is predominantly directing and mentoring young people, creating shows and performance opportunities for the younger generation of artists.

NF: I’m a big advocate for culture and substance in circus. I’m cut from a significantly sturdy yet fabulous cloth. My beginnings were Polytoxic, a six-strong collective which fused Pacific and Australian culture. Then Briefs Factory, which is an all male political, satire high octane cabaret. Currently I am co-director of Casus Circus (Knee Deep, Driftwood, Chasing Smoke). All creations have social commentary, high circus skill and culture.

S: What do you love most about what you do?
RB: I love to watch a show evolve. I love seeing it progress from a concept or idea into a full show. It is also pretty inspiring to see young performers develop as artists. I have had the opportunity to watch many of the young artists I work with grow from children to adults which is special in itself.

NF: So many things. As you know, I am currently working with Rachel and Sliders Youth Circus on Cutting Teeth. I enjoy passing my knowledge onto the next generation of circus artists.

I’ve known Rachel since our early days in our circus stories and we have supported each others careers over the last 10 years. Now together we are creating a show which is a joy. We bounce off each other and guide the young performers, creating a show that is both enjoyable in the making and hopefully on stage.

S: Funniest career moment so far?
RB: Too many!! Working with this crew I am in stitches most days!

NF: So so many. I once went out on stage without my pants on. I was supposed to wear them under my lava lava (a sarong). In this act I would walk out, stand proud and strong under a spot light and remove my lava lava. Mid-reveal I realised I wasn’t wearing any pants and sheepishly had to scurry back through the curtain to find my bottoms.

S: What made you decide to present work at Fringe World this year?
RB: It’s a fabulous opportunity to highlight what CircusWA has to offer and such a wonderful opportunity for this young crew. They are all so excited about performing our new show as part of the Fringe line-up!

NF: Cutting Teeth. I’ve been working with Rachel and Sliders Youth Circus sporadically over the last six months so it’s time to continue and then premiere!

Tell us about Cutting Teeth!
RB: Our show is about youth experience. It is a representation of the challenges, joy and journeys on which young people embark. It features some of WA’s up and coming artists with mad skills!

NF: Cutting Teeth explores that intersection in life that most young people face: leaving school, parting ways with friends, illnesses that influence life choices, influences from peers, family and friends. These themes are showcased through the lens of contemporary circus. You will see a four person rope act, a juggling act with costume changes, double trapeze, duo acro and something called puppy hammer.

S: Aside from your show, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe?
RB: Fringe is not only a fabulously inspiring time but it is a time to catch up with interstate and international artists. The circus community is very close knit and it really is an opportunity to hang out, catch up and support each other.

NF: Apart from Cutting Teeth I can recommend, Club Briefs, Trash Test Dummies, Djuki Mala, Lovefool, Only Bones V01, Phat Cab Club, Yuck Circus and Laser Kiwi. These are mates and loads of fun.

S: What’s your favourite part of the playground?
RB: No brainer – monkey bars.
NF: Merry-Go-Rounds. But you have to go super fast with a drink in your hand.

Cutting Teeth plays at The Freo Big Top 24 – 25 January and at The Big Top at  The Woodside Pleasure Garden 31 January – 3 February.

Pictured top are cast members from “Cutting Teeth”.

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The Big City
Cabaret, Comedy, Features, Fringe World, News, Performing arts

A clown in the city

Louis Spencer’s new work The Big City has come full circle. Bringing together clowning, cabaret, comedy and puppetry in what he describes as  “a Pixar-esque bundle”, The Big City began its life as a ten-minute piece, as part the Blue Room Theatre’s 2017 “600 Seconds” program at Fringe World.

Ahead of the premiere of the full-length version of the show, Seesaw caught up with Spencer to find out more about his path to clowning.

Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be an artist?
Louis Spencer: Probably when I was in my early 20’s and trying to figure out if I should do something that I love or just get a job. At the time though the word “artist” wasn’t something that crossed my mind, rather I just knew that I wanted to be involved in theatre and the performing arts. I always wanted to be a performer when I was a child but I kind of went back and forth on if it was something that should actually go for. It wasn’t until I had been in university for a year or two that being an “artist” was something I considered.

S: Tell us about your training…
LS: I studied at WAAPA in the Bachelor of Performing Arts – Performance Making course; it’s still fairly new but its reputation is growing very quickly. I was very fortunate to be in a class with some people who have gone on to do some great work in Perth and become amazing artists. Seeing people that you love and respect do so well is inspiring. What I liked about the course itself was that it allowed you to find your path and discover your practice if you were willing to put the work in.

S: Describe your artistic practice…
LS: My focus, right now, is primarily on making work in the genre of clowning, mime and physical comedy – theatre that young people can enjoy but can also be appreciated by a mature audience.

S: Career highlight so far?
LS: I wouldn’t like to say I have one yet. I like to enjoy my success but also don’t like to rest on my laurels. I want to keep learning and getting better in my practice.

S: Career lowlight?
LS: Also don’t like to think about that. I think to do so can be crippling. Anything that can be considered a lowlight should be looked at as a learning experience and something to look forward from.

S: What do you love most about what you do?
LS: Performing. It is such a rare opportunity to do it. We spend so much time making and working on a show yet we may only get to spend a couple of hours on stage actually performing. It should be cherished, no matter how the performance ends up.

S: This isn’t your first time performing at Fringe World. What drew you back? 
LS: The piece that I’ll be presenting this year was developed from work I presented two years ago as a part of The Blue Room Theatre’s “600 Seconds” program. I decided the genre of clowning and physical comedy was something I wanted to develop into a full length stage show. And here we are!

S: Tell us about The Big City
LS: The Big City follows Joe the Clown as he ventures into an unknown urban terrain in search of theatrical stardom. At the same time he hopes to reconnect with a long lost friend who did what he is attempting a few years earlier. As with my previous clowning work, I have taken inspiration from the stars of the silent film era, such as Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. I was also inspired by a little-known Martin Scorsese film called After Hours, in which the protagonist faces innumerable obstacles in his journey just to make it home from work.

S: Aside from your show, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe?
LS: Feminah Anything by Charlotte Otton is worth checking out.

Front  Featuring an exceptionally talented cast.

F**K Decaf – Looks really interesting and is performed on the beautiful Alex Hotel rooftop.

Poorly Drawn Shark Will be wild.

Dad a touching, funny show by recent WAAPA Performance Making grads.

S: What’s your favourite part of the playground?
LS: One of those really high, curly slides that felt like they went forever when you were a kid.

The Big City plays The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights, 18-20 January.

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