In our third interview exploring the shows involved in and ideas behind Melbourne’s Poppy Seed Theatre Festival, we chat to Simone French about Hotel Now’s What’s Yours Is Mine, currently playing at the Butterfly Club.
What is the premise of your show?
Our show dissects ownership and the Australian dream through the eyes of the three Sydney Olympic mascots, Olly, Syd and Millie, who are on a road trip through regional Australia searching for their identity in 2016. We play with Aussie clichés and explore ownership of land, people and possessions in a very cheeky and surreal kind of way.
Why did the concept of your show appeal to you?
We were attracted to the idea of ownership and felt that in Australia there was an inherent need to own things in order to climb the pillars of success. This got our brains bubbling away at whether we bought into this concept or not. And it forced us to look at where these “pillars” may have come from. It also meant we have been able to investigate the state of our country and whether we feel like we belong here. And as soon as we got on the bandwagon for Australian identity and what it means to be Australian – we were hooked!
Why does the festival format work for your show?
Hotel Now has been making work since 2013 and it felt like the perfect step for us to take our company to the next level. We wanted to collaborate with a strong team and be supported through the process and learn tips from other creatives, that we could take into future work and the direction of our company. The festival also really fostered theatre makers and creatives with exciting ideas, allowing them to present a concept with promise, and then provided them with the funding and support to realise it.
What has surprised you in the process of creating or rehearsing your show?
We started with the idea of ownership, and a one act Anton Chekhov play. Now our show is looking at Australia and the “Aussie dream”. Whilst it sounds like they are far removed, we have actually taken the central themes of land, people and possessions and placed them in a very modern Australian setting and [explored how] the modern Australian feels about these issues. We have also been surprised and sometimes overwhelmed by the endless possibilities of the work. The Australian theme has really shone through and given this show great legs.
Do you see a future for the work beyond the Poppy Seed Theatre Festival?
We are excited about the possibilities for this work to grow and be used in other platforms. There are many festival opportunities for this work to be shown in 2017. At the moment we are drilling down into the nuts and bolts of the work and we will solidify ideas for where the show can go once we open!
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?
Every time you think you have a formula for making a show you realise that there is no “one process fits all” approach. Talking to the other groups about how they are making their shows has been really insightful… Being able to connect with other groups and realise that they are also in a similar place has provided much comfort and reassurance. Even being about to have conversations about effective marketing has been incredibly valuable.
What is the benefit in people from different works sharing resources and problem solving together?
The ensemble has been such a fantastic support to us throughout this process – we basically have four different production teams (plus the festival team itself) all working on each show. Each person on those teams brings such diverse experience and a wealth of knowledge, it not only means we can seek help from other teams but we can also put our individual skills to use, helping them! Often working on an independent show can feel like you are pushing against the current all by yourself, but this process has really helped in feeling like we have a whole team of support behind us.
Why are you excited for audiences to see your show?
Our audience will not be taking a back seat in this show. The Butterfly Club is such an intimate space, and therefore we are using the audience as part of the story telling in this show. There are many moments where we interact with the audience, and they might even get to take something home with them too!
Why are you excited for audiences to see the other festival performances?
Each performance is so unique and really represents the diversity that Melbourne’s independent arts scene has to offer. As an ensemble, we showcase such a wide range of styles & ideas – Ladycake offers a contemporary take on the story of Marie Antoinette, Riot Stage gives young people a platform to talk about taboo subjects with their own voices and ideas, and Blessed will be an intimate two-hander taking a parable and thrusting it into the modern day. This is really an astounding group of creatives that have come together, and we are so excited to be included in the group!
How have you been supported by Poppy Seed Theatre Festival?
The whole structure of the festival is designed to keep us supported every step of the way – the weekly ensemble meetings are the key to this, I think. So often you operate in a little bubble when working freelance or independently, and those meetings help us stay connected & focused. Poppy Seed also organised some brilliant workshops for us earlier in the year with industry professionals.
What would you say to artists who would like to apply to be a part of future Poppy Seed Festivals?
The process of applying and pitching really helps to solidify what it is you are exploring, and can be beneficial to the development of your show – irrespective of whether you get into the festival!
What’s Yours Is Mine runs at the Butterfly Club until 4 December, with tickets to be booked at this link.