Artists and Aliens collide creatively

Is there anybody out there?

Robert Jago & Natalie Holmwood Photo:  Richard Jefferson
Robert Jago & Natalie Holmwood
Photo: Richard Jefferson

Is there life on Mars? Have humans had close encounters with E.T.s? Artists and aliens have often collided in creative ways over the last few decades because the alien question haunts our collective unconscious and plays on our imagination. There is so much room for invention, since thus far in our human experience, the existence of extraterrestrial life has yet to be proved and so the sky’s the limit.

Writer Lachlan Philpott and his creative team have been exploring the alien question for several months now and they have devised a piece called Alienation which is now being produced by the Perth Theatre Company (WA) and Q Theatre Company (NSW). The team first began developing the piece in 2012 with HotHouse Theatre’s “Month in the Country” residency program. Philpott then came to Perth in March 2013 to further develop the script with Melissa Cantwell, Perth Theatre Company’s Artistic Director and director of this production.

Perth Theatre Company arranged a meet and greet with the creatives involved in the production and I was fortunate enough to be invited to get a sneak peek at this new work. I also got the chance to chat to a few of the cast members about the piece.

We were invited to Rehearsal Room 2 of the State Theatre Centre where PTC General Manager Nic Clark gave a quick hello and introduced Melissa Cantwell to the gathering of Perth theatre enthusiasts. Cantwell then said a brief word about the piece and introduced the cast and the crew who were present. The actors left for a quick costume change while Cantwell was speaking and re-emerged clad in white coveralls, ready to do a short scene from the play.

The ensemble consists of Naomi Hanbury, Luke Hewitt, Natalie Holmwood and Robert Jago.  They are four very different physical types, which is hopefully a good way to start an interesting dynamic on stage. The short excerpt gave each actor a bit of exposition and then they came together to give us a taste of how they will interact with each other as a group. It’s still early days, but the brief glimpse of what’s to come shows a bit of humour and a bit of mystery.

After the scene we were invited again to mingle with the cast and crew, so I took the opportunity to have a quick chat with three of the cast members, Rob Jago, Luke Hewitt and Naomi Hanbury. My aim was to find out a little more about what was involved in the development process and perhaps to get a fuller sense of what the final product of this work-in-progress would be. The three very generously obliged and revealed a few enlightening things about what Perth is going to see.

Firstly, the actors are playing stage versions of themselves and have brought elements of their real lives into the story. There has been some considerable discussion amongst them about what side of the alien question they stand on, although none of the three I spoke to were willing to admit whether they were sceptics or believers. The research involved in the piece has been ongoing and engrossing; they have spoken to individuals who claim to be abductees as well as to a psychologist with a certain level of expertise in the field.

I asked them whether this piece was more personal for them than other shows they’ve done, since they’ve been involved in its inception and are playing versions of themselves (along with other characters) in the show. And further, was it more difficult to put the characters and the ideas away at the end of the day, since on some levels they were the direct sources for the material? They each indicated that the piece was indeed near and dear to them, but that the lines between real life and stage life were no more blurred than with other shows they’ve done.

It was a thoughtful and quick discussion that just barely scratched the surface of some very interesting ideas, so hopefully this is a good indication of what we’ll be treated to once the show opens.

Perth Theatre Company Season: Fri June 28 – Sat 13 July, 2013

Q Theatre Season: Thu 18 – Sat 27 July, 2013

Cicely Binford

Cicely originally hails from Dallas, deep in the heart of Texas, USA. She graduated from Texas Woman's University with a Bachelor of Arts in Drama. While at university, she had the opportunity to explore as many aspects of the theatre world as she could fit under her belt, both as a performer, as well as in a number of different design and technical roles. After moving to Australia in 2007, she found herself back in the theatre world, performing, designing, and even directing once again, with a passion rekindled by the increasingly vibrant theatre and performing arts scene in Perth. She is also an avid photographer and can often be found around town at various performing arts events with a camera strapped to her neck. Her aim is to have her finger on the thriving pulse of the arts scene in WA through participation and immersion in everything it has to offer.

Cicely Binford

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