An Interview With
Arielle Gray, Gita Bezard and Kathryn Osborne
Director and Performers of the 2013 Martin Sims Award Winning Show: Minnie & Mona Play Dead
How long have you been an artist? Can you tell us a bit about your practice?
ARIELLE: I am a performer, theatre-maker, puppeteer, voice-over artist & improviser as well as being a founding member of The Last Great Hunt. I love creating, performing in and touring inventive, original and engaging theatre and have done so since I graduated in 2005.
KATT: I’ve been a practicing professional artist since graduating from the contemporary performance course at ECU in 2007. I am a theatre maker and director working as part of The Last Great Hunt, the Artistic Director of Riptide Youth Performance Company (based at Mandurah Performing Arts Centre) and also am a freelance director and creative producer. I’m interesting in making work that has a rich visual aesthetic and that involves a strong sound/music element.
GITA: I’m a playwright, director, devisor and performer. I met Kathryn at university and Arielle at a party and we have been collaborating ever since. Sometimes I write on my own and wish I was working with devisors in a rehearsal room. Sometimes I work in an ensemble and wonder why actors are not as compliant as my computer. I enjoy making work that is risky and ambitious and that pushes me as a maker to learn and be challenged.
can you tell us a bit about minnie & mona?
KATT: Minnie & Mona Play Dead was a darkly comic play within a play about a girl who wanted to take her life. We created fictional versions of ourselves (the creatives) as a way of approaching the topic from a personal perspective. The show was presented in the form of a play that abruptly ended as a metaphor for ending ones life suddenly. Minnie & Mona were the fictional characters that existed inside the play who lived in a fantasy world and played games of life and death. It was also really funny.
how important is it for your work to be seen on a world stage? What have you learnt about presenting work outside of WA?
ARIELLE: I think it’s really wonderful to have the opportunity to take work elsewhere. It's pretty special when you realise that the themes you are exploring or the story you are telling resonates with audiences from different countries and cultures. It absolutely highlights the universality of experience. Touring is also a wonderful way to allow a work to really have a life - theatre is so transient, it’s a blessing when a work can continue to grow in front of new audiences.
WHAT WAS ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF TOURING THIS SHOW TO EDINBURGH FRINGE? WHAT WAS THE DYNAMIC OF THE TEAM WHEN YOU WERE TOURING SO FAR FROM HOME?
KATT: We all got along really well. Arielle in particular was a trooper as she was also performing It’s Dark Outside at the same time. Two shows a day without a day off for 25 days is FULL ON. And she was amazing. It was a challenging learning experience and we could have easily let that affect us, but we’re still all working on projects together 4 years later, so that’s a good sign.
CAN yOU TELL US ABOUT A TIME WHERE YOU HAD AN AMAZING SHOW/ENCOUNTER WITH AN AUDIENCE MEMBER?
GITA: There was audience member who particular sticks in our minds. He approached us after the show and told us that he had gotten a blood nose but was enjoying the show so much he didn’t want to leave. So he removed his sock and used it to stop the blood. It was one of the more grotesque compliments any of us have received about a show.
ASIDe from fringe world, which has been the best festival you have presented at?
ARIELLE: Edinburgh Fringe is a pretty wonderful festival. There are so many shows on so you get exposed to a lot of different types of work, which is also the factor that makes it super difficult to present there. It is a real baptism of fire – sometimes there are shows that are really good that struggle to get audiences and sometimes there are really terrible shows that are packed out. It’s also a festival that (in my experience) you do a month of shows with one day off, so it’s a great opportunity to really run a show in.
What ARE YOU WORKING ON NEXT?
KATT: We are actually in the rehearsal room this very moment collaborating on a new work called MY KINGDOM (planned for premiere in early 2018). The work is a funny, visual and grotesque coming of age story of a teenage girl as she discovers her sexuality.
What does it mean for you to be making work in WA?
GITA: Staying in WA has meant that we have access to opportunities that we might not have had anywhere else. There is a surprising amount of support and programs for emerging artists which all of us took advantage of after university and which meant we could grow our careers and gain experience. We have found that we have been able to learn and experiment and take risks and fail in environments that support and encourage us.
You have been a long term participant in FRINGE WORLD, What’s your favourite thing about FRINGE WORLD?
GITA: I love how it brings the city to life. Perth used to have a reputation for being a city where nothing happens and FRINGE WORLD has changed that. Perth in summer has become a very exciting place to be - so many things to do, events, shows, gardens, pop-up things of all kinds. The best part is that the whole city gets involved. People who never used to go out to see live performance can be overheard on the bus talking about what they’re going to see that night. It brings the community out and puts the arts at the forefront of everyone’s minds for one fabulous month.
The Last Great Hunt has been a serial award winner at Fringe World. Do you have any thoughts about the development of your company and the growth of the festival?
ARIELLE: We have been very fortunate in the awards department, and interestingly it has been for different mixtures of artists (we have seven in the company + other collaborators). It is a wonderful gift to win an award, it means that the show has a badge that tells potential future audience members that it’s worth taking a punt on, which helps when you are trying to make your show stand out from thousands!
It’s been incredible watching the rapid growth of FRINGE WORLD – I think it shows that Perth was really hungry for a Fringe. It’s a great platform for local artists to experiment with their practice or expose audiences to their work. On top of that, FRINGE WORLD brings in some of the most exciting shows from around Australia and the world that the local artists can all go and watch, which I think is super valuable when trying to keep Perth artists in the national and international conversation.
The company has three different shows all running at Edinburgh Fringe this year – how do you manage such a hectic schedule of producing and touring?
KATT: We are lucky enough to be supported by Department of Culture and Arts now which allows us the luxury of having core staff that manage the logistics of the company and its work. The artists all pitch in to support and we have project-specific team members that help with the delivery of the actual tours on the ground. It’s always a tough balance to keep things on the road, develop new work and present it in Perth. But we are all extremely committed to growing and building our company; to continue to be a producer of a range of exciting new works that are presented in Perth and then go on to tour. We’re also really glad that people around the country and world are keen to see what we make! We want our work to be seen to a wide audience and although it’s hard work, we all love it. I can’t imagine doing anything else.