On Saturday night Astrid and I took part in an event called "The Clown and Puppetry Sessions", an experimental theatre event in Melbourne facilitated by performer Sarah O'Shanesy. Set up in her own backyard and garage, this event was reminiscent of LSP's "Living Room Theatre" (see previous blog post Living Room Theatre for more). Six acts in total, three clowning and three puppetry, including my Astrid show, it was certainly a night to remember; quirky and unique.
NOTE: For those of you new to my blog and/or my work, Astrid is my hand carved marionette. She features heavily throughout my site if you care to venture on!
Sarah's second event of this nature, it was very well planned out; a small stage set up in her garage, with lighting rigged up to the ceiling and seating for around twenty audience members. Drinks and home made treats (including delicious chai ice cream) were served out of the back window of the house, and there was even a small bungalow in the backyard that served as the artists green room. From the very beginning of the evening, there was a fantastic sense of community around the event, performers and audience mingling together around the backyard.
The performances themselves ran in two halves. I sat and watched the first and was blown away by some of the work. Kimberley Twiner was one of the stand outs for me, performing a short piece as her character "Basha". A cave woman of sorts, Kimberley's commitment to the role, physically and emotionally was just astounding... and hilarious. This character was odd, disconcerting, a little bit gross, but strangely endearing... A thoroughly enjoyable piece!
Astrid and I performed as the opening act of the second half. It was interesting that every act before us (and after in fact) was rooted in comedy. I think that was the style of the event really. As such, I think I caught a few people off guard with the very somber nature of Astrid's show. The first time I had performed Astrid's show to an audience in Australia, I was delighted at the response. Reminiscent of her time in the UK, once again, there were audience members brought to tears, something I must say makes me very proud. I received lovely feedback after the show and was incredibly happy to have had the chance to share my work with this lovely group of people.
Sarah herself behaved as an MC of sorts, in her own unique clowny way. She had created puppets and contraptions that she would use to cleverly introduce the shows. She even made the safety announcements fun; making a short silly act around the fire extinguisher and first aid kit. Her clown character was incredibly endearing and really was the glue that held the whole event together. There were a few technical hiccups through the night, but the casual atmosphere Sarah had created, and that sense of community I mentioned earlier, meant that these hiccups only connected performer and audience more. It felt like we were all in it together; there to have some fun, and see some art.
Performer Rob Cartwright entered the space as his character "Tito" with only one plan, to sweep the floor with his tiny silver dustpan and brush (I was delighted at this as it meant I didn't have to clean up the sand after my act!) From here Rob's act was entirely improvised. Our audience were so fantastically open, it was the perfect environment for Rob to work like this, and what he came up with was brilliantly funny. I almost wish I had taken my baby orangutan "Henri" for a little improv on the stage, but I think Astrid was enough for me for one night! When speaking with Rob in our green room, as he explained the nature of his act, I couldn't help but laugh. "Improv?" I said. What a contrast... "Mine? No... Mine is INCREDIBLY rehearsed!".
My good friend and fellow LSP student Angie Macmillan also attended the event and though she didn't perform on the stage, she did bring along one of her latest creations: a lovely lady rod puppet named "Mavis". The puppet was strapped to Angie's chest for almost the entire event and was a lovely addition to the festivities. Quite a snobbish character, she wore a lovely deep green gown and spent the interval walking around introducing herself to the crowd.
A really special event, I am so happy I was able to be apart of it. It was lovely to have the opportunity to share my work and to see the work of so many others... not to mention meeting some amazing new people! I love this kind of theatre; accessible and open, with that wonderful intimate community feeling. It was really lovely to be a part of. Plus, it has re-ignited my passion to create events like this of my own! A huge thanks to all my fellow performers, Kimberley Twiner, Rob Cartwright, Fanella Edwards and Dani Cresp. A huge thanks also to our wonderful audience and of course to Sarah herself for organizing such a fantastic event.
For more about Kimberley Twiner visit: http://www.youtube.com/user/kimberleyimberley
For more about Rob Cartwright visit: http://myfriendtito.mymadcat.com/
For more about Angie Macmillan visit: http://www.angiemacmillan.com.au/