An Interview With
Creator of the 2015 Martin Sims Award Winning Show:
Monroe & Associates
How long have you been an artist? Can you tell us a bit about your practice?
I have been an artist for about 12 years. I am a theatre maker, which means I do a bit of everything. I am primarily a performer, but I also am an animator, puppeteer, puppet-maker, director, writer, and at times, designer and composer. The type of theatre I make varies a lot, from intimate wordless visual theatre with puppets and animation to large scale interactive theatrical games. Whatever the form, it's typically born out of a lot of trial and error; improvisation, and experimentation fuelled by curiosity.
Can you tell us a bit about MONROE & ASSOCIATES?
It's a theatrical role-playing game for one person at a time. The audience member plays the role of Frankie Monroe, a Private Detective with amnesia, who has just been released from hospital. They find out they have been in a coma for the last three months and their task is to find out what really happened the night they were shot, and who killed their partner George Belinski. They can search their office (an old caravan renovated into the office of a private detective), find clues, solve puzzles, and make lots of phone calls to explore the world and narrative they have woken up inside. It's a bit of a choose your own adventure, where the audience member makes choices that affects their narrative. I have prepared a bunch of different plots, scenes, and endings, but ultimately it's up to the audience member to drive the story where they want to go. And up to me (or one of the other performers) to hang on for the ride.
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOUR WORK TO BE SEEN ON THE WORLD STAGE?
It is an essential part of my career and of the life of the art itself. Since 2008 I have been touring my shows internationally. Before then, the theatre that I made existed for an audience for a maximum of three weeks, then would disappear into the abyss. By touring a work, it gives it a chance to evolve into something else, to become refined through feedback and response. By taking my shows overseas, it has not only been valuable for my career in gathering opportunities to present, collaborate and create new shows, but has also been invaluable in extending the life of the show itself.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNT ABOUT PRESENTING WORK OUTSIDE OF WA?
That what we make here in WA is of a world class standard.
WHAT WAS ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF TOURING THIS SHOW TO ADELAIDE FRINGE?
Getting so many promoters and producers along to see it. It has ensured that this show will have a life. Directly from Adelaide, we have some really exciting prospects for both this show and other creations like it.
WHAT WAS THE DYNAMIC OF THE TEAM LIKE WHEN YOU WERE TOURING SO FAR FROM HOME?
In Adelaide, it was just myself and the other performer Wyatt, with the producers managing it all from Perth. It's the type of show that you can just keep tinkering with and adding new bits. So thats what we did! We kept dreaming up and creating new parts, new props, refining and experimenting with the show. It was exhausting but really fun!
Can you tell us ABOUT A TIME WHERE YOU HAVE HAD AN AMAZING SHOW/ENCOUNTER WITH AN AUDIENCE MEMBER?
Oh boy, there are so many. Every show has the potential to run right off the rails. In fact, that's when you know it's going really well. - when you end up going places with the audience member that surprises and excites you. We have a book that we write the amazing and utterly surprising stuff that people do or make us do in the show, so we can share it with the other performers of the show. It is a source of great delight!
I don't want to spoil any of the show for people who haven't done it yet, but I will say that typically the show runs at about 70 mins, but in Adelaide I did a 2hr show for a woman that played so well. When I made a small slip of the tongue and reacted inappropriately in a scene, she latched onto it and ended up inventing all sort of plot twists and turns that ended up with me dressing up as a woman and improvising an entirely new twist ending. When it finally finished she laid on the floor and screamed 'This is the greatest night of my life!'. That was a fun night.
Aside from fringe world, which has been the best festival you've presented at?
Don't make me choose! I do have a very special place in my heart for Edinburgh Fringe. It is just so freakin' big! I end up seeing so many shows and getting very inspired.
What does it mean for you to be making work in WA?
Unsentimentally, it's just the most logical and convenient. I have opportunities, collaborators and resources here that have taken me a long time to build. It means I can get on with the job quicker. Sentimentally, it means a lot. This is my home, although I have traveled a lot over the past 12 years of my career, I have only LIVED in Perth. Even if I didn't love it here, it would be part of my identity. For some people it isn't enough, but I guess it just depends if you are the type of person who likes to help build the castle, or just live in it.
What are you working on next?
Lots of things. Mostly trying to 'upscale' - that is, trying to take what I do and translate it onto bigger stages. Both in the more 'visual theatre' types of shows I usually make, and also making larger-scale theatrical game experiences (or at least for more than one person at a time).
You've been a long term participant in fringe world. what's your favourite thing about the festival?
What it has given to the cultural identity of Perth. I am still quite overwhelmed and awestruck each year as I witness this incredible atmosphere take over an area that is typically/historically scary and violent. It has claimed back part of our playground for those of us fortunate enough to be able to play, and invites others to join in. I know Fringe have all the stats on this, but it has had a huge and lasting impact on my city, and my cultural centre.
If you were an animal, what animal would you be?
Sea lion. No doubt.