Blessed, a fractured love story that spans fifteen years and explores “the stagnant horror of inter-generational Australian poverty in the context of religious mythology”, is the second work in a trilogy of political plays by writer Fleur Kilpatrick and director/producer Danny Delahunty. Chosen as one of four works to participate in Melbourne’s new Poppy Seed Theatre Festival, the independent work opened two days ago at the Coopers Malthouse Tower, and will play until 20 November.
In the first of four interviews by AussieTheatre exploring the Poppy Seed Festival and the shows chosen to participate, Danny Delahunty is interviewed below and introduces us to how the festival functions, and the themes Blessed explores.
What is the premise of Blessed?
Blessed is a meeting of the broken and the divine, and is simultaneously a love story, a reaction to cycles of poverty in our society, and an interrogation of Christian ideology. We tell a story of two familiar strangers – teenage lovers who have not seen each other in a decade – rediscovering who they are and what they mean to each other, within the framework of fucked-up inescapable destitution and responsibilities that prevent them being who they want to be.
Why did the concept of your show appeal to you?
The writer of the piece (Fleur Kilpatrick) and I have a shared interest in interrogating biblical stories and asking what relevance they might have to a modern Australia. For better or worse, our society and laws have been (and continue to be) heavily influenced by Christianity, and so as non-religious individuals we both believe it’s important to be looking at what this book is saying and how it might adapt to our society. While our last collaboration, The City They Burned, used the Destruction of Sodom to explore industrialisation, Blessed speaks to us of escaping the inescapable – that tangled web of circumstances that hold families in poverty for generation after generation; this is an issue that our community simply does not take enough action on, and it is not discussed or thought about out loud anywhere near as often as it should be.
Why does the festival format work for your show?
As an established independent theatre company, we have produced over a dozen fantastic and well critiqued shows in plenty of Australian festivals, and yet we have rarely had the opportunity to work so closely with other independent artists in the ensemble format that Poppy Seed provides. Add to that the fantastic support the Poppy Seed framework gives you (a venue, rehearsal space, a publicist, marketing support and production budget) and you have the best dream an independent theatre company can hope for.
What has surprised you in the process of creating or rehearsing your show?
Although I was quite aware of it already, to an extent, I was still taken aback by the overwhelming generosity and support that the wider Melbourne arts community has provided in assisting this show to happen.
Do you see a future for the work beyond the Poppy Seed Theatre Festival?
Yes, definitely. It’s a really fantastic piece of theatre with a hugely important message, and I think it will be easy to find new audiences for this in other cities or contexts. And, to make things easier, for the first time in five years I have directed a two-hander (the last time I toured a work it was taking nine actors for the immersive production of The City They Burned to Brisbane Festival… not an easy show to tour!)
This festival allows artists to interact with their counterparts from each of the other performances, have you learned anything from someone participating in a different show? If so, what?
Unfortunately we have not had the chance to go to any other open rehearsals yet, as the other shows are a few weeks after us, but we will get the chance to soon!
What is the benefit in people from different works sharing resources and problem solving together?
It encourages administrative collaboration. We’re all familiar with artistic collaboration, whether it’s a director taking inspiration from their actors, or devising a piece with designers, or inviting another artist in to ‘outside eye’ their process; yet there is rarely any capacity for producers to do this. Often what seems like a big issue can be solved in a second when it’s voiced to other experienced producer brains sitting around a table. This is what the Poppy Seed ensemble meetings provide.
Why are you excited for audiences to see your show?
We have been working on this piece so hard and long in a closed circle of artists that it’s bursting at the seams with the need for someone from outside this process to see it. I’m really excited for our audiences to enjoy this as a fantastic piece of theatre, but more so at the prospect of them leaving the space stimulated with ideas and questions for each other about the subject matter and themes.
Why are you excited for audiences to see the other festival performances?
I haven’t had a chance to see the creative output of any of the other shows yet, but I’m really excited for audiences to be engaged with the Festival as a whole, to support this endeavour of presenting top-tier independent arts in Melbourne.
How have you been supported by Poppy Seed Theatre Festival?
As mentioned above: the format of the ensemble and the ability to rely on the support of other independent producers as well as the wider Poppy Seed team has been incredible. As part of the Festival we have also received our venue (The Coopers Malthouse Tower), production budget, marketing support, a publicist, fees to pay our artists and an artistic panel of experienced artists to get advice and assistance from whenever needed.
What would you say to artists who would like to apply to be a part of future Poppy Seed Festival’s?
Do it – this Festival has arisen in the wake of Federal funding cuts and the dissolution of programs such as Helium and Neon, and through the support of an amazing list of sponsors it is able to give the independent theatre community exactly what it needs: a place to grow and flourish.
Blessed closes on 20 November. Tickets can be booked at this link.