Sydney Fringe Q & A

Sydney Fringe Q & A

With the Sydney Fringe in full flight around Sydney’s inner west until September 26, Stage Whispers is speaking to the writers, directors and performers involved. All previous Fringe Q & As now follow directly after our latest Q & A.

In our final Sydney Fringe Q & A, Bethany Noble speaks about her play Deli Chicks, co-written with mother Paula Noble.

Your play, Deli Chicks, is a comedy inspired working in a supermarket deli department. Tell us a little about the nature of that humour of that experience and recounting it when you got home.

Initially I didn't see the humour of working in the deli. It was only when I started to come home complaining about it over dinner to my family or with my friends that I began to see how unreal some of the people that I was working with were and how the events like chicken heads on necks, the way people ordered food and how pretentious deli bosses could be. It was mum who first saw the humour in these situations that were happening to me so she started to jot down the anecdotes I would tell.

Do you need to have a special kind of sense of humour to work behind a deli counter?

No but it sure helps! I think if you can't laugh at life and not take yourself too seriously then you miss out on seeing the humour in everything...or everyone! There was such a lot of Big Fish Small Pond mentalities floating around that it was begging to be a humour story.

Can you share one of the funnier experiences and one of the sadder things you experienced?

Customers always asked for chicken necks (a delicacy for dogs). I hated these things more than anything else in the Deli (I was a vegetarian at the time). One day I was giving a customer his requested kilo, when I looked down and realised I was holding a chicken head in my hands. I absolutely lost it! The next thing I know a guy I worked with was shoving the head in my face. There I was, trapped by this guy with a veiny chicken head in my face, and an older lady slowly taking the cooked chickens out of the rotissery, giving each of them a stern word before displaying them in the cabinet. The poor customer just walked away.
The saddest part of the deli was probably realising that our identities were suspended while we were there. Customers were rude and demanding with no regard for our feelings, like we were 'stupid' because we worked there. The bosses (Big Boys) never bothered to make eye contact or say hello. They would walk past, check we were working and the cabinets were nicely displayed and walk away in their shiney black shoes. It was impersonal. You really felt like you were just a number on a payslip.

How did your family storytelling develop into a play?

Mum was secretly writing the stories I told her down in the hope of writing a book. When I was at acting college we had to write a play so mum suggested turning her notes from my story telling into a play. She had developed alot of different characters so together we shaped these into five characters and styled it on a Cinderella theme where the lead, Rachel, hates her job at the deli but feels trapped unable to make a decision about her future until a visit from the Big Boys, along with her losing her cap (like a slipper), results in her being forced to make a decision about her career whilst someone particular finds her cap.The characters in the play are created from observing the people I worked with. However the male medical student is an addition, one I wish was there when I worked at the deli to make life a little saner!

Some time on from the actual experience, do you have a different perspective on the stories and people?

The deli certainly does not change which I have discovered as I laugh with other people who have also worked in a deli and experienced the same frustrations, funny moments, customers and bossy bosses as I have. So I still find the events and stories funny only now I am more accepting of people's differences. A 17-year-old working in a supermarket with a variety of adults is a relatively fresh eye opening experience compared to the school classroom. Now, 6 years later, I have a broader, more tolerance perspective on individual differences. With maturity comes understanding I guess. Although I still feel sorry for the deli workers when I go and buy my smallgoods!

Is there a theme underlying the comedy?

I think there's a couple. We want the audience to rethink the people behind the counter. Be it chemist, butcher or perfume counter. They all have a life, dreams and an identity. We wanted to bring in the struggle young adults experience when they leave school and try to figure it all out. There's so much pressure from parents, friends and society to be successful and go to Uni or have a good job. But really, people need to pursue what makes them happy. Even if it is working in a supermarket deli.

You've previously performed late night performances of the play. Was there much fine-tuning as a result of audience response to those performances?

We performed at the Old Fitzroy Theatre this year in August. We found that the audience largely enjoyed the show, however they wanted more chemistry from the two lead characters. As we had to cut the play down to 60 minutes, we found some of the dialogue that hinted at a romance was missing. So we shaped the play a bit more to suggest more romance between the two leads.

What sort of theatrical experience can you promise your audience?

This is a play where the audience will identify with the themes running through the play of identity, career decision, job security and pleasing others. As it is light-hearted and amusing hopefully they will leave with a smile on their face as they invariably relate a story about their experiences, or someone else’s, of part time work (or full time) behind a counter. This isn't a play that will make you question your alter ego or the relationship you had with your mother rather when the audience grab a drink at the local bar after the show, they'll probably question what kind of shenanigans are happening behind the bar.
Finally, working in a supermarket can't be that bad, my three younger siblings have all followed suit!

Deli Chicks plays as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival, at St Lukes, 11 Stanmore Rd, Enmore, from September 23 to 26.

thesydneyfringe.com.au/shows/deli-chicks

Our fourteenth Sydney Fringe Q & A is with Amanda Laing, Producer of No White Elephant Productions, who spoke to Stage Whispers about the company’s Sydney Fringe production, Slaughterhouse of Love: Romeo & Juliet.

With a retitling like In the Slaughterhouse of Love: Romeo & Juliet this is obviously a very different slant on Shakespeare. Can you explain a little more about the interpretation and what is involved?
Basically, in a nutshell, we've have taken a recognisable and well loved story and turned it inside out to surprise, unseat and ultimately reengage an audience in live theatre. The main differences with this production is that it is physical in its approach and non-linear in its unfolding. Whole pieces of text are replaced by movement and/or the exquisite poetry of Jelaluddin Rumi, a 13thC Sufi poet, who's works eerily reflect Shakespeare's immortal words.

The media release mentions the inspiration of the poetry of Jelaluddin Rumi, and specially composed music. Can you explain a little more about this element of the production?
Rumi wrote about love, life and divine. The joy, frenzied drive and compassion he expresses in his work is both the overarching theme of the interpretation and the basis of our approach to the work. The original music created by composers Tom Brennan and Daniel Curtis aids in setting the epic and passionate atmosphere as well as draw the disjointed scenes together.

What inspired this particular interpretation and style of performance?
Filtered through and expanded upon by ten actors the concept was inspired by Director Erica Brennan's desire to create theatre that by-passes an intellectual response to love and instead rejoices in the feeling of it. She wanted to create a piece that did not shy away from the violent and dark side of passion and a piece that was above all entertaining and engaging. The style is heavily influenced by the work of Brisbane based company Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre and the shared training of No White Elephant Productions company members from UWS Nepean. It is highly visual, musical and an all round fast paced epic approach to Romeo & Juliet.

What character are you playing? Would you like to explain a little about the interpretation of your character?
The show is an ensemble based piece. All ten actors swap identities throughout the entire piece. I play Juliet, Lady Capulet, Mercutio, Benvolio and even Romeo at one point. This approach has allowed a fractured and expanded reading of the piece. At times the characters move beyond the singular to the metaphorical and even mythical. It's a challenging but exciting feat.

Your company No White Elephant Productions is described as emerging in response to the thinning of funding being allocated towards the Bachelor of Performance Degree at the University of Western Sydney. How extreme have the cutbacks been? Is there still a strong theatre culture at the university?
Unfortunately the Bachelor of Performance Degree (formerly known as Theatre Nepean) no longer exists. We were the last performance students at the University. However, there is a very strong, supportive and highly skilled Theatre Nepean Alumni. Unfortunately though now there is very little to no performance training available in Western Sydney. After we finished at the end of 2008 the studios were renovated and transformed into an indoor basketball court.

The Slaughterhouse of Love: Romeo and Juliet plays at The Greek Theatre, Marrickville from September 21 to 26.

thesydneyfringe.com.au/shows/slaughterhouse-love-romeo-and-juliet

Our thirteenth Sydney Fringe Q & A is with writer James Ballan, who directs in is own play The Viagra Monologues.

Men think about sex once every 60 seconds. Does it really take that long?

The Barman, the Father and his Son, the Stripper and her Driver. At closing time at the pub, these 5 people from different walks of life share their experiences and views on sex and the search for love and happiness.

We asked about the title's similarity to The Vagina Monologues. Are we just looking at a male alternative?

Yes and No. It is not a response to the Vagina Monologues. The Viagra Monologues has a very strong narrative thread where the different stories of the five characters resonate with each other, even though they are about completely different experiences.

Where did the idea spring from?

It came up in a conversation with an actor friend, when the title The Viagra Monologues came into being. In fact I named one of the characters, Henry, after him. Of course after the title, I had to work out what it would be about. So I developed these five characters, 4 men and 1 woman, who share their stories and observations about men's attitude towards their sexuality and their relationships with other men and women. The idea was to challenge some of the stereotypes we have about men's fixation with their appendage.

You are directing your own play. What are the challenges involved? Do you find yourself changing hats during the process?

It has been an interesting process, partly because I've been wearing three different hats from the outset - writer, director and producer. So it's been a combination of creativity and business. I've found both sides of the coin very satisfying, if at times tiring.

The rehearsal process for this has been very different because although it is made up of monologues, it is also an ensemble piece. So I've been working with actors individually on different nights of the week, but then getting together as an ensemble once a week to work on the onstage relationships between the characters. The play had been through a couple of rewrites before it got to the cast, and the cast have massaged it further. Some more than others. I trust and respect my cast, so I've been very open to their input. It's been very collaborative. The difficulty always lies in being very close to the piece and the danger of losing perspective. So I've had a couple of trusted outsiders come and have a look at some later rehearsals to get their reactions and they confirmed that we were on the right track. They gave some comments to help improve what we're doing, but overall found it enjoyable, funny and moving.

You're premiering a brand new work for just four performances at the Sydney Fringe, itself a brand new event. Is it a testing ground, hopefully leading to something more substantial?

It is a testing ground, for us and the festival in general I guess. I'm hoping that we can do a longer run after the festival. We're planning for that already. So we'll see how that pans out.

In a nutshell, what can audiences expect from The Viagra Monologues?


A great night of emotional surprises. Strong and engaging characters in very credible and recognizable situations. There will be laughter, sadness and a few "ah!" and "ouch" moments. I believe it will be a very fulfilling night of theatre.

The Viagra Monologues will be performed at New Theatre, Newtown from September 22 – 25.

thesydneyfringe.com.au/shows/viagra-monologues

In our twelfth Fringe  Q & A, Sasha Misrachi, co-founder of theatre company Devil May Care, speaks to Stage Whispers about the Australian premiere production of Songs of Grace and Redemption by John Donnelly.

Songs of Grace and Redemption follows five city-dwellers and their unwieldy baggage as they stray into Soley's Bar. Inner-city folk will be able to relate to the characters who each face a turning point in their lives as their weaknesses are exposed to us for better or worse. The coincidences that draw them together unravel into a funny and tender urban fairytale with a generous dose of risqué!

We asked Sasha to tell us a little about Devil May Care and how it came into being.

Our company, Devil May Care, is a not-for-profit independent theatre company based in the Inner-West founded by myself and Claire Nesbitt-Hawes in 2009. Its been established as a melting pot of Sydney’s most creative and vibrant young theatre talent. We like to challenge and engage our audiences, selecting scripts with a relevant social message. Claire and I both did the same drama course at Macquarie University and worked together at the Ensemble Theatre, deciding to team up to pursue our theatre interests.

This is the Australian premiere of a British play. What is it about the play that appealed to your company?

As for the play, Songs of Grace & Redemption by John Donnelly is about five characters in their thirties, each with their own personal baggage and at turning points in their lives which intercept. It's cleverly written and dark at times but has also has some comical scenes where you'll be laughing out loud. This is our first British play we've produced and will be its Australian premiere. Some of the British references and locations have been changed to sound more Australian in order for it to resonate with an inner-city Sydney audience. Otherwise, we've been faithful to the script so it keeps Donnelly's wit and edginess.

The play has an inner city theme, so the inner city Fringe Festival seems appropriate. Do you think local audiences will recognise themselves?

It's a contemporary story which everyone will identify tiny slivers of truth about their own lives: relationships, their own fallacies and vulnerabilities. We think the Fringe audience will be able empathise with the characters in this urban story as they confront the challenges of the inner-city living rat race. We're also excited to be part of the Fringe Festival!

Songs of Grace and Redemption plays at The Greek Theatre in the Addison Road Centre, Marrickville from September 20 to 25.

thesydneyfringe.com.au/shows/songs-grace-and-redemption

In our eleventh Fringe Q & A writer Con Nats speaks to Stage Whispers about his play Starry Comet Nights.

Amid speculation a comet is heading for earth, Con Nats’ play Starry Comet Nights poses the question of what would you do if the world was going to end in five years. Would you share the information with the rest of the world or just party like it was 2099?

Nats wrote the play during 2004, when scientists speculated there was a one in 45 chance of a comet hitting the earth in 2029.

We asked Con Nats:

What prompted you to write a play around the impending end of the world?
At first I was interested in people’s reactions to the idea of an apocalypse and how they react to it, so I asked lots of friends what they would do, and was interested in their responses. Then along came climate change and it was interesting to see the parallels to my informal research in how people reacted to it. Denial is the first reaction, as the reality and the impacts are things a lot of people struggle with. The more mature jump to look at solutions.

You've given your characters a space of five years between the news and the end of the world - why?
If the end of the world was imminent, you would batten down the hatches. Five years away is a long enough period for people to ask themselves, ‘Do I bother going to work tomorrow?’ and ponder how other people would react if they were faced with the end. It’s that interesting period between climate change, where we have twenty years to get things in order, and sudden catastrophes like earthquakes.

You initially wrote this play several years ago - has your perspective on the concerns of the play changed in that time?
Absolutely. After Inconvenient Truth, I was heartened by how the world reacted to the challenge of climate change and shelved the play. There was a real atmosphere of ‘We are in danger and we have to work together and face this.’ Conservative governments fell around the world and there was real sense of hope and positive reaction. But during the political negotiations of last year and after Copenhagen, I thought, ‘That’s it; we’re going back to being ignorant idiots again. We really do blink in the headlights of global danger… only we pretend it’s not happening.’

If so, have you re-written it to reflect that?
Yes, I did. I reduced the timeframe of comet impact from 20 years to five to raise the stakes and explore the basic reactions I found when researching the original idea. Generally, people react in either a conservative way, that is, it’s not happening, and if it is, I’m going on bigger bender than Keith Richards and Amy combined, or the more leftist, spiritual caring reaction of ‘I’m going to stay close to the ones I love and try and save what we can.’ It was amazing how easily people fell into one of those camps.

Is one or more of the characters written from your own perspective?
Well, there’s a little bit of me in all of them, but the lead character, Stanley, and his character arc reflects my view and cynicism about climate change and our ability to deal with death and destruction.

How important has the Fringe been in this play reaching the stage?
It helps focus people and helps attracts actors. And I wanted to be part of the first Fringe Festival, so it helped motivate me. I hope they get their act together so it is something to be proud of having on your cv.

What impact are you hoping to have on audiences?
I want them to laugh a lot, be moved by the emotion and the end and to question themselves about what they would do if they knew the world was going to end. And then laugh some more.

Starry Comet Nights opened on September 12, nd plays futhere performances on September 18, 19 and 24 at Boiler Room Factory, 105 Illawarra Rd, Marrickville.

thesydneyfringe.com.au/shows/starry-comet-night
 

In our tenth Sydney Fringe Q & A, Writer/Actor Candice Storey speaks to Stage Whispers about the premiere of her first play Daughters of Whores.

Not many peeps can say their mother is a whore and mean it literally... It's kind of hard to know where to put that information. In your head. Amongst all the other confusion. Leek soup or wasabi peas? Beauty therapy or the Sex Industry?

This is your playwriting debut. What sparked the desire to write for the stage?

I'd been writing collectively for TV with my production company HDC productions for a couple of years. It's five guys and me, so as you can imagine I have to raise my voice a lot. Daughters of Whores was born from a frustration to get creative flow. I love my boys, but sometimes it's fun to just to write solo. Writing this play has helped me to get clearer with my own voice.

Your play is a comedy about a young woman coming to terms with the fact that her mother is a sex worker. Where did the idea spring from?

I guess the idea fascinated me. I find the sex industry both intriguing and confusing. I'm not quiet sure how I should feel about it or the people who partake in it. I know as much as we pretend to be liberated there is still a huge amount of taboo around the area. It's a collective discussion I want to have.

You are performing in your own play. did you write the role you are playing with yourself in mind?

Not really. I mean, it's my voice, but I'm not really think of the performance when I'm writing. For me, they are two very separate processes. I just happen to love them both.

Has much need for change arisen during rehearsal? How has it been to be there when that sort of thing is discussed.

That is a very good question. There has been a lot of fine tuning during the rehearsal process. I've been extremely lucky to have my director/dramaturge, Kay Harrison to assist me. She has been amazing.
It can be a very exposing situation to have you're writing discussed so publicly. I've definitely had to navigate my ego gently.

Has much about the way the script has been interpreted and directed come as a surprise to you?

Yes. I love the creative process. I love all the wonderful surprises that have come along the way. I hope there will by many more to come throughout the run.

What sort of theatrical experience is in store for audiences?

This is not a play for the fainthearted. It will definitely challenge the audience. Apparently I'm the queen of inappropriateness. I think I just have a quirky sense of humor. Life is very absurd to me.

My dream would be for the audience to come away with a refreshed perspective of being human. A lot of chat in the foyer. That would
cool.

Daughters of Whores plays from September 17 to 23 at Petersham Town Hall.

http://thesydneyfringe.com.au/shows/daughters-whores'

In our ninth Sydney Fringe Q & A, Eva Crainean, Artistic Director of dance company Dansatori speaks to Stage Whispers about Pistol Whipped, the company’s dance/burlesque show being performed as part of the Sydney Fringe.

Pistol Whipped is described as a sexy and comedic look into love, lust, revenge and male/female stereotypes. The classical and contemporary trained dancers bring their technique and jump away from the abstract and into the blatantly entertaining world of burlesque.

Your dancers have backgrounds with the Australian Ballet and Australian Dance Theatre - how did the switch to burlesque and the risque come about?
I nagged my mother from the moment I could speak to take me to ballet lessons. She ultimately gave-in. I remember standing at the barre in 1st position with tears of joy rolling down my cheeks. From that moment I was obsessed with dance. I took my passion into the classical arena and ultimately discovered that contemporary dance was a valid option too. However, I started to feel as though contemporary dance and I did not have an honest relationship. I barely knew what I was meant to be conveying to my audience, so how did the audience know?! It seemed as though you needed to be stoned or not quite right in the head to know what was going on. I began to believe that contemporary dance was alienating the general public, and in my heart I wanted to be entertaining the public, not just the art connoisseurs. And so began Dansatori, with a philosophy of only creating blatantly entertaining works that were accessible to the general public whilst maintaining a very high level of technique. It has been our audience that has led us into the burlesque arena. We love the idea of people coming out to escape their mundane lives, to be thoroughly entertained and go home excited. We'll do anything to make sure our audience is never bored. We want our crowd to be out loud cheering, laughing, and stamping their feet, which doesn't happen much in ballet and contemporary, not in Australia anyway.

Is the show all that risqué (debauchery is one word used in the media release)?
Oh well, I wouldn't want to give too much away, but I admit that I am a little nervous about my mother watching on opening night! I'd also like to add that I think there is much more to arousal than simply the removal of clothing. I have often heard of Dansatori's work, that it is "more erotic than a strip show".

Where did the idea of Pistol Whipped spring from?
A series of life events led me to want to create an exaggerated and fanciful version of relationships and particularly male/female stereotypes; male/female and female/female communications, not necessarily the good bits, but some of the yucky stuff too.

As we've already mentioned, the festival's hype deals with the burlesque and the risqué side of things, but does Pistol Whipped also deliver a message or theme?
Pistol Whipped is certainly not merely a strip show. We explore many themes including: betrayal, love, jealousy, sex, bitterness, and revenge. The relationships and characters build, change, and grow throughout our plot. However that question reminds me of a Balanchine quote "In ballet a complicated story is impossible to tell... we can't dance synonyms".

How are the more conventional classical skills and techniques of your dancers applied to burlesque?
I have seen a lot of burlesque over the past few years, and the one thing that always leaves me disappointed is the lack of talent. I mean really my mum, my neighbour, anyone could get up and do what those girls do. Dansatori offers dancers with 25 years of training each! We can do stuff that normal bodies can't do! Our ballet backgrounds also lend us the traits of extreme discipline and a passion that drives us to rehearse tirelessly.

How do you hope audience members will be responding as they leave your performance?
I hope to hear statements like "these guys are going to be big", I want audiences to leave feeling as though they would not hesitate to trust, recommend, and support the company, Dansatori, into the future. I also would like for the audience to go home feeling very entertained and relieved from their normal life. I suspect that the couples may go home and enjoy each other too.

Pistol Whipped plays on September 15, 18 and 22 at the Forum Leichardt, and followed by a season at the Illawarra Performing Arts Centre in Wollongong.

thesydneyfringe.com.au/shows/pistol-whipped
 

In our eighth Sydney Fringe Q & A, Katie McKee, an up and coming Sydney cabaret performer, talks about her new work, Identity Crisis, which will be debuting at the Seymour Centre as part of the Fringe Festival.

McKee shares her stories and shows how one young performer can be a murderer, sweetheart, temptress and psychopath all in one!

Identity Crisis pokes fun at the seriousness and stupidity of ourselves: a funny and moving cabaret, which sings a familiar tune. From contemporary music theatre to re-vamped pop & rock, Identity Crisis is a one-woman show … or is it?

Tell us a little about your background, and what brings you to cabaret.
I am originally from Brisbane, I moved to Perth to study at WAAPA and I settled in Sydney almost 2 years ago. I have taken on various projects since graduating and after performing a small cabaret in the final of the Cabaret Showcase last year I decided that I wanted to create my own show. Cabaret seemed the perfect way to express myself and perform the songs that I don't often get the chance to. It also gave me a platform to work on characterisations and just have some fun!

Where did the idea of Identity Crisis spring from?
I have always felt that I am made up of a few people squashed together. Identity Crisis invites us all to think of the multiple personalities that we deal with on a day-to-day basis. The idea started after I graduated from WAAPA and I had absolutely no idea as to what my casting type was. I had always played the older roles at drama school because I was the oldest looking female in my class. I had a huge moment when I realised that there were plenty of 40-year-women in the world to play the 40-year-olds. So who was I and where did I fit in? I began writing the show as a bit of comic therapy and it turned into something I am very proud of.

The release media release says Identity Crisis 'shows how one young performer can be a murderer, sweetheart, temptress and psychopath all in one.' How much of yourself have you brought to this show?
Wouldn't you like to know! No seriously, I have brought all of myself to every story. The beauty of this show is that it is all about the extremes. No matter how exaggerated the stories they are all derived from truth. The fun part is working out which is which.

Tell us about the music you use, and your approach to it.
It was really important for me to find different styles of music. I didn't want it to all be one genre. I think it is so interesting when you hear a really familiar tune sung in a completely new way. When choosing the music the most important criteria for me was the lyrics. There is no point in singing a pretty song that goes nowhere.

You also perform in more conventional musical theatre and opera. Can you explain a little about the shift and experience for you in cabaret performance?
The difference between Cabaret and conventional Music Theatre and Opera is HUGE! Instead of playing a character written by someone else I am performing something close to home and it is very exposing. It is such a raw medium and I think that is why people enjoy it - who doesn't like to have a bit of a perv? The scale is so different - cabaret is much more intimate and personal. I am so excited to be performing a piece that I have written - there will be no one in the world who could play it better than me!

In a nutshell, what sort of experience can audiences expect?
An intimate date with the many faces of Katie McKee. I think the audience will relate to many of the themes. It is an evening full of some of my favourite songs, stories and confessions. Enjoy

Identity Crisis plays at The Sound Lounge, The Seymour Centre on 15th & 18th September.

thesydneyfringe.com.au/shows/identity-crisis

In our seventh Sydney Fringe Q & A, Stephanie Son co-Artistic Director of The Colour Blind Project, speaks to Stage Whispers about the company’s production, Shakespeare In Full Colour.

Australia, the 1960s. A civilized tea-party disintegrates into an argument of war-like proportions. Six women struggling with their own demons, striving for perfection.

Shakespeare In Full Colour is described as a visceral journey into the psyche of some of Shakespeare's greatest female characters. A production which fuses the traditional elements of Shakespeare with a fresh and unique concept, devised by an integrated multicultural ensemble of women.

What inspired the idea of drawing together six of Shakespeare's great female characters?
It was two-fold - we wanted to show that just because Shakespeare is considered a ‘classic’, does not mean that multicultural performers couldn’t perform it. We wanted to reinvent Shakespeare and make it relevant to not only today's society, but to the reality of Sydney's cultural landscape. And secondly, we were fortunate to find wonderful, talented actresses who inspired us to create a show focused on women and explore some of the great female characters that Shakespeare has written.

Without giving too much away, who are they, and what happens when they come together?
Six women from six Shakespeare’s plays, including Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, and Taming of the Shrew, are taken out of the context and placed into Australia in the 1960s. All are struggling with their own demons and striving for perfection, they come together for a perfect tea party...and then the walls come down.

Your media release states that it is your ambition to create work that challenges and contributes to the cultural diversity and representation in the Australian Arts and Entertainment landscape. How did the company come into being?
Both Josipa (Draisa) and I are performers and, feeling frustrated with the lack of diversity we would see when we went to the theatre or turned on the TV, decided to be proactive about encouraging a change in the industry. We wanted to see the reality of the multicultural Australia on our stages and on our screens and to challenge the Australian stereotype that is constantly portrayed.

How does the current production reflect your stated ambition?
Shakespeare In Full Colour is an integrated cast – colour and race is almost non-existent. The production is a practice in colour-blind casting, while also being truthful to the reality of the Australian social landscape. This is not a radical thing in other parts of the world – but it’s a rare thing in Australia that we would like to see more of.

Shakespeare in Full Colour plays at New Theatre, Newtown from September 16 to 19.

thesydneyfringe.com.au/shows/shakespeare-full-colour

In our sixth Sydney Fringe Q & A, Writer Jasper Marlow discusses his play, Zetland, which has its premiere as part of Sydney Fringe 2010.

Can you give us a brief overview of the play?

Zetland is a dark comedy that smacks of truth, an intimate experience of how men communicate, how they avoid conflict and how they deal with failure. It tells a story of two brothers- Josh and Ross and their housemate Kez who are trying to live together amid a swamp of poverty, avoidance and unfulfilled dreams.
This is a play that illuminates those who drink wine (from a cask) and what they do when the party's over.

Have you drawn on personal experience for the play?

Most definitely. A friend of mine was considering joining the army and this fascinated me. He wasn't sure what do with himself and became attracted to what the defence force offered ie. get fit, get money, shoot guns. Young men feeling pressured to make something of themsleves is a problem very few people touch on. I feel Zetland confronts this issue.

As the production takes shape, are there elements of the production and performances that surprise you?

It is unbelievable how much a good cast and crew can bring to words on paper! Things I never dreamed of have occurred in the rehearsal process and I have my Director (Andrew Johnston), my Producer (Jennifer Medway) and Designer (Kate Shanahan) to thank. Not to mention my incredible actors Alex Bryant-Smith, Felix Joseps and Brendan Maclean.

What are you hoping audiences will take away from your play?

To have an insight into how men in 2010 live, breathe and grow up.

This is a premiere production. What are your future hopes for the play?

I'd like to see Zetland performed at other Fringe festivals around Australia and hopefully a season at one of the Independent Theatres in Sydney.

Zetland plays from September 14 to 19 at Sidetrack Theatre.

http://thesydneyfringe.com.au/shows/zetland

In our fifth Sydney Fringe Q & A, Director Paul Gilchrist discusses one-woman show A Thing of Beauty, transferring to the Sydney Fringe after a season of late night performances at the Old Fitzroy.

Naomi and Ruth are travelling. But change is a challenge. And Ruth craves simplicity. She finds it - in snow-domes, guidebooks, mannequins - anything to make the mayhem manageable, in a mix of movement, multi-media and razor-sharp wit.

We asked Paul Gilchrist to describe the show in a nutshell.
It’s a crazy comic exploration of how we deal with one of the greatest challenges in life – the ‘Other’. Performer Jo Richards creates two very different women, control-freak Ruth and laid-back Naomi. As they travel together through Europe their very different approaches to how to deal with the ‘Other’ -whether it’s another person or another culture - come in to high comic relief.

What attracted you to the piece in the first place?
Jo came back from a trip to Europe with a series of photos of mannequins and we were intrigued by how different cultures portrayed the human body in different ways. But soon we became fascinated by the relationship of the mannequin to people in general. We couldn’t help but find in mannequins a perfect example of the laughable way we attempt to minimise the world’s complexity so as to make it more manageable. This set us off writing a monologue to explore the many ways we try to shrink the world; the way we experience journeys through the contracting lens of the guidebook, the way we reduce places to snow domes, and the way we begin to see people as little more than dummies.

When you are directing a solo performance, what are the challenges in terms of sustaining a performance and an audience's interest?
It’s very tempting in a solo piece to succumb to the bells and whistles approach; using multimedia and special effects to grab the audience’s attention. And if succumbing to temptation sounds alluring, audiences should rest assured that A Thing of Beauty has indeed succumbed and has all those fun bells and whistles. But a solo performance is also an opportunity to focus on the fundamental relationship in theatre, that between the performer and the audience. And audiences really appreciate that. The artist is there for them and so they’re treated to a rich and warm performance.

Are there special qualities that an actor needs to make a solo show work?
A solo performance is a beautiful opportunity to showcase the breadth of an actor’s range, and audiences love this. Jo Richards originally trained at Lecoq, the famous movement school in Paris, and she has an extraordinary ability to create objects, places, and other characters through mime. But she is also superb comic actor with impeccable timing and can deliver a well-crafted one-liner with hilarious precision.

This piece has already been performing. How have audiences been responding?
We’ve had a fantastic critical response and we find that audiences really relate to the show’s basic set up – the Australian travelling overseas. Australians are great travelers. Australians took 6 million trips overseas last year alone. A Thing of Beauty is a mischievous look at the attraction and challenge of travel. As a writer director there are two responses from audiences I absolutely love. One is shocked laughter, and there has been plenty of that. The other is from audience members who come back to see the show again, and then tell you that the performance continues to provide unexpected surprises. To get that response is a wonderful honour.

A Thing of Beauty plays at the Boiler Room on September 10, 11, 12, 16 and 18.

thesydneyfringe.com.au/shows/thing-beauty

In our fourth Q & A, cabaret artist Tia Juana discusses her cabaret show TiaJuana & Her Depths of Despair.

Tia is a cabaret performer with a passion for quirky ballads and bizarre love-songs. Accompanied by her band, the 'Depths of Despair', she takes a journey through songs of sorrow, littered with tangos of torment, fateful fado and tales of unrelenting woe. Tia Juana has performed at a variety of festivals including Woodford, Illawarra Folk Festival and Melbourne Fringe.

How did you come up with the name of your show and band - TiaJuana & Her Depths of Despair?

I came up with the name of the band via my love of the melodramatic and the fact that it captures the mood of the show - dealing with the topic of depression in an absurdist style. TiaJuana is a hybrid of my original name and is a result of my music influences growing up - a strange mix of seventies lounge and exotica.

What led you to create a show choosing songs described as sorrowful, tormented, fateful and unrelenting woe?

I come from a love of folk songs and particularly those that tell tales of misfortune and suffering. I adore Portuguese fado music, which is often concerned with melancholic themes.
Also, I believe that in art, the deepest suffering can often reveal the greatest beauty. That is not to say that I'm all misery in the show - one needs contrast after all!
I guess I'm taking certain genres of song (gypsy, fado, blues, etc) and focusing upon the one common denominator: despair & overwhelming sadness.

Tell us about the balance between tragic and comic in your show.

The comedy is mostly in the character of TiaJuana and her own narrative of her journey of suffering. She is an absurd character, yet the songs she sings reveal a real heaviness and sadness (with a few exceptions).
Without raving on too much, I suppose it's an existentialist show, in that I make observations about suffering and highlight the absurdism of it all.

Tell us about the range of songs you perform.

We stretch out from traditional folk tunes all the way to some bent rock moments (Pink Floyd-esque). The band has such great versatility that we have been able to go almost anywhere sorrow can be sniffed out!
We also give a 'despairing' treatment (a dress-down, so-to-speak) of a favourite uplifting musical number. We also have the obligatory drinking song to drown one's sorrows!

What sort of experience can audiences expect?

Hopefully to be amused and 'moved' at the same time!

“TiaJuana & Her Depths of Despair” play at Notes on 10th and 19th September.

thesydneyfringe.com.au/shows/tiajuana-her-depths-despair

In our third Q & A, playwright Diana Plater discusses her play Havana, Harlem, involving the little-known story of the woman behind Fidel Castro, which is having its premiere as part of the Sydney Fringe.

Who was the woman behind Fidel Castro? Contrary to most accounts, Castro did not start the Cuban revolution. While he was languishing in jail a petite but incredibly brave Cuban woman, Celia Sanchez, was organizing the guerilla rebellion in the Sierra Maestra. Later she helped Castro become the leader of Cuba and was with him and Che Guevara as they took victory in Havana in 1959.

Journalist Diana Plater's new play, Havana, Harlem, part of this year's Sydney Fringe, tells the story through the eyes of Celia Sanchez and of two momentous days in 1960 when the Cubans were holed up in a hotel in Harlem, New York. The play is particularly timely. As the Obama administration and the Miami Cubans wait for the frail Castro to die, the revolution is in the balance.

The story of the woman behind Fidel Castro's revolution isn't one we've heard of - how did you come across it?
I had heard of Celia Sanchez because I'd lived and worked in Latin America as a journalist in the mid 80s. But when I was resarching a TV doco on Castro I came across the story of the Cubans, including Celia, being stuck in the run-down Hotel Theresa in Harlem in 1960 waiting to do the sugar deal with Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
The more I read about Celia, the more fascinated I became. Not only was she a revolutionary but a Santeria or Voodoo priestess. Although Castro had many other women over the years, she was always number one. She had been a gun-runner, messenger, secretary but really was the one who made all the decisions. When she died in 1980 of lung cancer Castro was distraught. Some say he's still in power because of the influence of Santeria. The sad part was that Celia loved America (if not its foreign policy) - and always hoped that the US government would get rid of the economic embargo against her country.

What made this idea appeal as something to theatricalise?
I thought it was was very funny. The immaculate Fidel and the asthmatic, unkempt Che quarrelling like spoilt children - with Celia trying to keep the peace. (This was the beginning of the breakdown of their relationship and the time when Che decided to leave Cuba for Bolivia.) There was also the story of the CIA and the Mafia plotting to kill Fidel and Che. But when I read more New York Times accounts of the time I could see the potential of the drama. For one, they were in Harlem and their revolution was meant to have given equal rights to Cuban blacks but they had no senior Black commandante in their group. They had to bring Juan Almeida, the head of the armed forces, from Cuba, but when he arrived the Cuban plane was impounded for unpaid landing fees. Then I spotted a photo of a black waiter who had been treated to a steak lunch by Castro. There was the character I needed and I created Jose, Celia's long-lost lover and former urban fighter. The eternal triangle - just the conflict I needed!

What is the story behind bringing your play to the stage?
It's been a very long and difficult one. I had a reading of the play in 2003 in Manila at the International Women's Playwrights Conference, as well as several here (one was at my home with Chris Hayward reading Castro) but put the play back in a drawer. Then the Sydney Fringe gave me the opportunity to stage it - and at a gorgeous little theatre, The Greek Theatre in Marrickville. I applied and got in then found a fantastic director, Deborah Jones, who has put together an incredible cast and crew. And it's on exactly 50 years since the Cubans were in Harlem!

Havana, Harlem pays at The Greek Theatre, Addison Road Complex, Marrickville, from September 11 to 19.

thesydneyfringe.com.au/shows/havana-harlem

Our Second Q & A is with writer Sophie Stone, who directs and performs in her play The allure of disgrace as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival. She discusses her production with Stage Whispers. 

The allure of disgrace is described as a purge of sexually charged generation Y frustration through a playful Beckettian round of 20 questions, which looks at the loneliness of love and the absurdity of life, in general.

Initially written as a response to Beckett’s Waiting for Godot: the epic masterpiece which illustrates that nothing is funnier than unhappiness.

The media release quotes Sophie Stone: “I studied Godot at University and was so intrigued by it. Famously a play where nothing happens, twice, it manages to say so much. About loneliness, about death, about our frailty to cope.”

Where Beckett’s stage sees four men waiting for death, Stone paints a picture of two women, waiting for life to begin. The quick banter switches from childhood memory to erotic fantasy, as the women search for some kind of meaning, or purpose, anything other than the mundane existence they follow.

Stage Whispers asked: You’ve said The allure of disgrace was 'initially' a response to Waiting For Godot? Has it ended up going down a different path?
The play has retained a lot of elements from the Beckettian stage, but it has also taken a turn down a much more personal path for me. When I started writing I had Godot in mind, but when I finished I realised the play was now about an ex, an ex that I had now written off. Its become a really interesting process, one that has made me realise a lot about myself, and given me a lot of closure. The allure of disgrace is about how we deal with loss and loneliness; how it can be hard to allow oursleves to be happy, when that limbo state of unhappiness is so easy and tempting to brood in.

Will the play have different impact / resonances for those who have, and have not seen Godot?
I think that audience members who have seen Godot will be more aware of the state of the characters and the circumstances they find themselves in, but that allure can resonate with anyone. It talks about raw universal emotion; of desperation, of love, of frustration; that at some stage of our lives we will have to face,

Generation Y, and women rather than men, seem key elements in the release - do we now need to look at Beckett's ideas through the eyes of a different generation and gender?
When you look at something from someone elses eyes there is always something different to be found. So simple in the concept of turning it on its side, and considering another aspect. Beckett was an amazing playwright and he explored so many fundamental emotions. For me, as a young woman, there is so much suggested in his works, that I felt full of my own ideas and responses, it was like a jumping ground. Allure is not a sequel to Godot, nor does it attempt to re-write or better it, it is simply another side, my side.

Why is your play a Fringe must see?
The allure of disgrace is a moment in time, of realization. The moment when you discover something so profound, yet so glaringly obvious that changes your life. Allure attempts to display our vulnerability, and our weakness for self destruction. Sometimes bad behaviour is so much more appealing than doing the right thing; than admitting defeat. Allure gives in to the wicked side of us, the side that should know better.

The allure of disgrace plays at Petersham Town Hall from September 15 - 19.

thesydneyfringe.com.au/shows/allure-disgrace

Our first Q & A was with writer/ actor Martin Williams discussing his black comedy The Margin Of Things, having its premiere at the Sydney Fringe.

Can you explain the inspiration for your play, and the story behind it's writing and production?
In early 2009 an idea came to me about three guys who bungle a robbery and hole up in an apartment to see what the fall out from the robbery will be. They end up turning on one another due to the perceived pressure of what they have done and what that will entail for them. I scribbled the idea down and forgot about it as I finishing off another screenplay I had been working on. This idea, however, stayed with me and instead of taking a break after finishing my other screenplay I found that these characters were screaming to be heard. So I started writing, but I set myself a few rules as an exercise, both as a writer and with a producer’s hat on, to keep the budget to an absolute minimum. The first rule was that it didn’t matter how long a scene was. Since my last script had dealt with breaking up and finding love again, the scenes all tended to be quite short, as is the way with most scenes in screenplays. With The Margin Of Things I didn’t want to worry about how long each scene was and instead would just write it out. Another rule was that there were only ever going to be three characters. The final rule; it was all going to take place in an apartment. I wrote for two weeks straight and what came out was The Margin Of Things. Having finished the script I soon realized that this was more a stage play, so that’s what I embarked upon.

Can you provide a sense of what the play is about, and what to expect of the production?
It’s a black comedy dealing with the desperation caused by debt. Three mates have been spat out by the world and out of desperation to get their lives back on track attempt to rob a rich friends house, but it goes drastically wrong and they turn on one another. Due to the fact that we were dealing with a very limited budget, the thought quickly became about letting the story speak for itself and not hide behind too much production or design. We really wanted to bring theatre back to its basics and build it up with dynamism, humour and heart. Without it sounding too off-putting or, for want of a better word, wanky, we really wanted the play to feel alive and on the edge, letting mistakes stay in the piece to hopefully make the audience feel off kilter. In the end we wanted to deliver a piece of theatre that would entertain and get people energized about seeing and putting on theatre. Because I know, I always think the best film and theatre is the stuff that really gets you wanting to do it yourself.

You are performing in your own play - is it a character you wrote with yourself in mind?
I certainly wrote with the idea of performing in it. But the role I originally thought I was going to play and started rehearsing with isn’t the one that I am now playing. A few factors happened outside of the acting that forced my hand to take a slightly lesser role in the play. But now I can’t see it being any other way. The director who was going to be a part of it had to leave due to the fact that he got a job that he was going to get paid for, and I certainly couldn’t compete with that. But the director who stepped into the fold, a very talented and special director called Wolf Jackson, certainly made up for the lack of time with his passion, and once again I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

What is the experience like, shifting from writing the play to stepping inside it?
The writing is never really over. With just under a week till we open, we are still finding things that should probably be a different way. And due to the fact of having to organize all manner of other things, the acting has taken a back seat, or should I say the worry over whether the acting is any good, the angst of pouring over whether I should do it this way or that way, just isn’t there. I know it, I turn up and we work it. It’s actually allowed me a lot of freedom that I didn’t think would happen.

Are there elements about the play - in production - which have been outside your expectations?
Everything. Just the day-to-day struggle of actually getting a play up and running. Having only ever acted in plays, coming over to the other side was a real eye opener. And considering The Fringe helped us out with a lot of things, I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be starting from complete scratch. The toughest part has been just getting the message out there that this play is on and is pretty damn good. It’s pretty tough considering it’s in amongst a bunch of other stuff that is pretty damn good as well.

The Margin Of Things plays at The Greek Theatre, 142 Addison Rd, Marrickville, from September 13 to 19.

thesydneyfringe.com.au/shows/margin-­‐things
 

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