Serena Chalker may be best known as a choreographer of site-specific dance but this January will see her slip into a pig-suit to play Patti, “a very creative, curious and enterprising pig” who wants to take care of the national park near her farm on the outskirts of Perth, so that everyone can enjoy it.
Though producing, choreographing and performing in The Patti the Pig Story and Song Show is a far cry from Chalker’s usual occupation, she’s loving the contrast. Seesaw caught up with her, ahead of the show’s premiere at Fringe World, to find out more.
Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be a performer?
Serena Chalker: I started dancing at the tender age of two-and-a-half, but there’s a video kicking around somewhere of me dancing around the living room at about age one, so I think it was a foregone conclusion….
S: Tell us about your training…
SC: I graduated from the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) in 2008, and then with a masters degree from Laban in 2014 (in London), but degrees never really prepare you for being an independent artist and producing your own shows. There’s definitely an element of on-the-job training in the real world as you try and find out what you want to do and why.
S: Describe your artistic practice…
SC: Well this show is definitely not something that is normally in the realm of my artistic practice – in my day job (can I say that?) I’m a site-specific choreographer, and the co-director of Anything Is Valid Dance Theatre.
My general artistic interest is in the relationship between place, memory and audience, and how the engagement of the body in space can produce different relationships to our environment. Needless to say, producing a kid’s show is a whole other kettle of fish – although I have definitely stolen a few moves from my early days as choreographer for Empire of the Sun (and the similarities between wearing a pig-suit and a swordfish head have helped me prepare for this role)!
I’ve really enjoyed the process of putting on this show so maybe this is a new line of work for me? Watch out, The Wiggles, I’m coming for you!
S: Career highlight so far?
SC: Putting up site-specific work Dust on the Shortbread with my business partner Quindell Orton at the 2018 MoveMe Festival.
S: Career lowlight?
SC: There never being enough funding to do what you want to do.
S: What do you love most about what you do?
SC: The variety, and the possibility to work with so many creative people. I think that collaboration, when done well, can take you to a place artistically that you couldn’t otherwise reach on your own.
S: What has been your funniest career moment so far?
SC: Probably the time when I was working on the Parklife tour (with Empire) and the stage was so small compared to the rest of the tour that I turned around and stacked it over the riser behind me in front of 10 000 people. Although, being in this show is definitely a close second.
S: You performed in your own shows at Fringe World in 2012 and 2015 but your two “partners in crime”, Michael Caruso and Melissa Bamford, are new to the festival. What made you decide to bring The Patti the Pig Story and Song Show to this festival?
SC: Michael wrote this kids’ show about six months ago, and was looking for a place to debut it – I thought that the platform that Fringe provides was a great opportunity for him to bring this new children’s character into the world. The vibrant, fun energy of the festival seemed like a great fit for the ethos of the show
S: Tell us about more about The Patti the Pig Story and Song Show!
SC: The Patti the Pig Story and Song Show is a children’s pantomime, aimed at kids three years and above. Patti the Pig and her friend Jenny live on a property on the outskirts of Perth, and one day they start to hear strange sounds coming from the forest that backs on to their farm, so they go and investigate. The show has all original songs, and aims to teach kids how to look after the environment, which is a very timely issue. It’s a load of fun with some high energy dance numbers, and plenty of silly antics on stage (but with an important message).
I think there’s something for everyone in this show, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. Mel is a fantastic singer (also trained at WAAPA), and she runs the Boogie Roos program in the Northern Suburbs, so the kids are going to really love her.
S: Aside from your show, what are you looking forward to seeing at Fringe?
SC: I’ve heard great things about Rest, at the East Perth Cemeteries, and A Midnight Visit, up near the East Perth Girls School. I’m looking forward to seeing the school in a new light!
S: What is your favourite part pf the playground?
SC: Is there any answer other than the swings? I was terrible at most things like monkey bars or the sliding pole as a kid, so the swings are definitely the most fun.
Pictured top are Serena Chalker as Patti and Melissa Bamford as Patti’s friend Jenny.