Perth’s FringeWorld runs amok with random presentations across and between genres and artforms, serious and silly, at all levels of ability and professionalism. For those interested in exploring the artistic potential of breaking down of barriers afforded by the festival’s sheer abundance of creative outpouring, some curated programs guide audiences towards thoughtful, thought-provoking and entertaining productions. Summer Nights is curated by The Blue Room Theatre and PICA, with their regular seasons of cutting edge independent theatre, dance and visual arts informing their insights into show selection.
This year’s Summer Nights includes Grr Nights moving into The Blue Room Theatre. Grr is the name of the yurt that artist Steven James Finch has been living in for the past year as part of his creative practice. Grr Nights is underpinned by the philosophy that drives Finch’s activities, broadly considered as a response to the Anthropocene Era and the ramifications of breaking down human-constructed dichotomies such as human vs animal and civilisation vs nature. Grr Nights invites a range of performers to perform site-specific works in the yurt, each bringing their own response to the Grr philosophy. As a unifying motif, Finch will appear in each piece, whether as MC or in incidental cameos, wearing his Totoro onesie. Another dimension to the work is Finch’s literal residency at The Blue Room Theatre, living in Grr, within the venue, for the duration.
With 12 unique performances over 10 days, a diverse range of collaborators explore genres, themes, styles and ways of creating temporary community engagement with their audiences. Proving that considerations of the end of civilisation can be entertaining, comedy and clowning are well-represented. Victorian David Maney brings his interactive clown work More or Less Better to Perth, and Sydney’s Choo Choo Troupe work with Phil Burgess (aka Dr Brown) to present SyNaTUREsthesia, an eco-cabaret, with clowns. Josipa Draisma from Choo Choo Troupe steps out for a separate solo show, Shapeshifter, a one-woman comedy with added Batman. Tristan Fidler and Matt Aitken from local late-night live tv show (without the television), Magnolias Late Night Live, will present a comedy debate night, Wildfire, discussing topics that need to be discussed, rather than avoided. Rachel Woodward uses puppetry and shadow play in Valentine, a play of a clown losing her heart. Only the Human, comedic, experimental and improvisational theatre company add some feminism into the mix of responses to the Grr philosophy, their Sad Girls Club an interactive performance reacting against the feminist millennial impulse to be constantly productive and happy.
Emma Fishwick brings dance to Grr Nights, with a combination of text, projection and movement in Reside in Blue. More text is expected with Ships in the Grr, a relocation of the bi-monthly Ships in the Night spoken word event to be held within Grr instead of its usual pub venue. Loren Kronemeyer may bring Pony, her greyhound, to examine aspects of general and personal fascination with the apocalypse in over it. Chloe Flockart’s Pigeon is a one-on-one work, using the constellation system to create coded messages on postcards, which will then become part of a growing installation within the yurt. SJ Finch will conduct Open Kitchen Dinners, further developing a project of sustainable communities and cooperation that has been part of his life in Grr. Music is represented by 30 members of the Menagerie Indie Pop Choir performing around the yurt space in Sound Bytes of Passage.
Grr Nights is more than a schedule of performances. Walking into the allocated space, the area around the yurt will create an instant impression of a distinct environment by using kokedama, potted plants and fairy lights. Tying in with the Grr Nights philosophy, Drug Aware presents: Illuminations, a mainly visual arts exhibition curated by Bridget Bathgate, complements the performances in Grr and elsewhere in The Blue Room Theatre. Bathgate has focussed on “effort, care and curiosity” when working with artists and their responses to her curatorial brief. With mentor Sarah Rowbottam, artists have been approached for their experience with immersion and electronics, as well as considering local and emerging talent across a variety of forms and interests. The name of the exhibition partly references the use of lighting in several works, powered by audience members using a bicycle generator or hand crank, or by solar power.
Bathgate is excited for the potential engagement of audiences drawn from all walks of life, with the exhibition occupying various spaces in The Blue Room Theatre and its garden, providing opportunities for incidental encounters with the works. The diversity of the works promises to appeal to various people in different ways, but the theme remains consistent, with a further endeavour to use sustainable, re-usable materials in each of the pieces.
Scale varies between artists’ creations, with Bonnie Boogaard’s bijou textile works featuring embroidered FringeWorld tickets, causing show patrons to reconsider the objects in their own hands as they wait for performances. Emma Buswell works with larger concepts, her interactive piece reflecting her interest in the Golden Eagle nugget, flag iconography and nationalism, combined with Enlightenment Era concepts of economic expansion and development of civilisation. Loren Kronemeyer makes her own projector to display videos of survival techniques, as well as teaching people to make fire. Alex Tate has a longer, geological perspective, using crystallisation to suspend technological objects in time. Lyndon Blue examines the interaction between humans and plants, keeping a plant in a fishtank with a growlamp, forcing the viewer to become complicit in the plant’s survival by choosing to demonstrate their acceptance or rejection of responsibility. Kieron Broadhurst responds to the human fantasy of the oasis, an ideal of being cared for in a hostile environment, basing his work in the garden outside the theatre.
A carefully composed mini-festival, within a curated program celebrating diversity and excellence, within a dynamic Fringe environment, the fantastic collaborations within Grr Nights and Drug Aware presents: Illuminations demonstrate the excitement and artistic diversity to be found in Perth’s annual summer celebration of the arts.
Coordinated by SJ Finch
Part of Summer Nights
Kaos Room, The Blue Room Theatre
Perth Cultural Centre, Northbridge
9-20 February 2016
Part of FringeWorld 2016
Drug Aware presents: Illuminations
Curated by Bridget Bathgate
The Blue Room Theatre
Perth Cultural Centre, Northbridge
22 January – 20 February 2016
Grr Nights and Drug Aware presents: Illuminations – grrnights.com
Summer Nights 2016 – blueroom.org.au/seasons/summer-nights-2016
FringeWorld 2016 – fringeworld.com.au
Top Right – Grr Nights
Bottom Right – Illuminations