An Interview With
Holland Street Productions
Winners of the 2018 Martin Sims Award for show: What Doesn’t Kill You Bla Bla Stronger
Can you tell us about your company, how you started out and how you got to where you are now?
Tyler: Holland St Productions began a bit by accident; we were filling out the registration form for our very first Fringe show back in 2013, and in typical fashion we had left everything to the last minute! We needed to come up with a production company name quickly, and Holland Street in Wembley just happened to be the street we were on at the time, and continues to be the location where most of my work with Robert Woods is created!
Fringe World has contributed greatly to our growth as a company. We’ve been fortunate that every original show we’ve presented at the Festival has been an award-winner, and we’ve been able to build a strong and loyal following through these successes. Winning our first Martin Sims Award for Point & Shoot in 2014 was a real game-changer, allowing us the opportunity to tour and win awards internationally.
Erin: Tyler and I had worked on some other projects together in 2012, and I was thrilled when he asked me to perform with him (and Robert and Tamara) in Point & Shoot. After the success of that first season, Tyler and I started creating more small performance opportunities for some of our friends to fundraise for our tours over east and overseas. Tyler had been doing a lot of the administration up until this point, but he had a lot of writing work to do with TCRF and other projects, and I enjoyed looking at the producing side of things, so with a bit of ironing out the kinks we established a great working relationship to support the presentation of our work while touring and it’s only gotten easier the more we’ve done! I love working with Tyler onstage and off, and I love the work that he and Robert create, so when they start throwing around ideas all I want to do is see how we can make it happen.
Can you tell us a bit about your award-winning show? Where did the idea come from?
Erin: What Doesn’t Kill You [blah blah] Stronger is our love letter to misfortune and those lucky (or unlucky) people who manage to survive it. It’s a cabaret of original songs about some of the most incredible stories of people surviving amazingly insane situations. Tyler is my bestie, so being onstage in this show is so much about us having a lark for the audience’s benefit. Tyler’s writing is as sharp, witty and humourous as ever, and Robert’s composition is inspired as the songs cross a range of styles musically, with some jazzy numbers, some traditional musical theatre numbers, a catchy calypso, and even some operetta. We’re lucky to have the virtuosic Joshua Haines banging out our tunes on piano!
Tyler: The idea for the show came about a few years ago, when I stumbled across the amazing true story of Violet Jessop, a young stewardess who not only survived the sinking of the Titanic but several other shipwrecks in her lifetime. I told the story to Erin, and as we discussed whether Violet Jessop was the world’s luckiest unluckiest person or vice versa, we knew we had the seed of an entertaining show.
We started researching similar tales of near-death experiences, and came across countless others that were just as strange and wonderful! Some of our favourites that appear as musical numbers in the show include Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailor who survived four years alone on an island by training an army of feral cats to keep him company and help him hunt for food, Russian doctor Leonid Rozogov, who was forced to remove his own appendix while stationed at a remote research facility in Antarctica, and Ann Hodges, the only recorded human to be struck by a meteorite!
There’s something life-affirming about these stories, where people are brought to the brink of death, but either through pure luck or their own perseverance manage to claw their way back into the world. Erin and I like to think of the show as a reminder to be hopeful in the face of tragedy, and to keep looking for the humour in the darkest situations.
What are you working on now? Do you have any shows coming up?
Tyler: We always have something in the pipeline! Robert and I are working on a few major projects that we’re hoping to complete in the next year; one is a stage musical, the other is a feature film.
Erin: We have a cabaret of some of the Jones/Woods catalogue coming up in November at The Blue Room Theatre. Tickets are on sale through their website (shameless plug)! We also love the vibrancy that FRINGE WORLD brings to Perth every year, and couldn’t imagine taking a year off yet, so audiences will have a chance to see What Doesn’t Kill You [blah blah] Stronger again Downstairs at The Maj, and our 2016 WA Theatre Award winning musical Dr Felicity Rickshaw’s Celebrity Sex Party returns to play at The Shambles.
Who/what is your inspiration?
Tyler: I’d say I’m mostly I’m inspired by the talent and dedication of those around me; I love creating opportunities for Perth performers to work on fun, creative new projects.
Erin: Like Tyler, I think there is so much talent in Perth, and watching or discussing works old, new, and yet to be imagined with our friends and colleagues is pretty exhilarating.
If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
Erin: I couldn’t decide, so I did a quiz. Apparently I’m a bear... It made sense, I am a good sleeper.
Tyler: Still a penguin!
Image: What Doesn’t Kill You Bla Bla Stronger by Sean Breadsell