- Jan Chandler
Candace Miles, Madelaine Nunn and Anna Rodway (Three Birds Theatre) are recent Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) graduates whose work is already drawing attention within Melbourne's independent theatre scene. Their second work LadyCake opens on 15th November as part of this year's Poppy Seed Theatre Festival and Jan Chandler had the pleasure of chatting with Candace Miles about the trio's work.
When Candace was 15 she attended an open day at the VCA, loved it, and was determined to become a part of it. Three auditions later she was accepted into the Bachelor of Fine Arts (Theatre – Acting) and that's where she met Madelaine and Anna who together make up Three Birds Theatre. Candace loves acting as 'it allows you to transform into anything – to be fabulous, villainous or even larger than life – and give an audience that gift … You're there sweating your little heart out to tell a story. I'm pretty fortunate to be able to do that; I think that's pretty special.'
The three work closely together when developing a new work. First they find a device, a topic, or a story. Next they research. Then they get into a room and physicalise, often 'goofing around a bit to find the best material … We'll sometimes turn it into a script. Then [they] get it up on the floor and sort of direct each other. We have a really great working dynamic, the three of us. We can critique each other and no one gets offended. It's very much a group effort. We each put on a different hat in different parts of the process. It's pretty fun!'
Their first work Three Birds One Cock was part of the VCA's 2015 Frisk Festival, won critical acclaim at the Melbourne Fringe Festival, toured to the Adelaide Fringe, Nati Frinj, and had a return season in June this year at the Metanoia Theatre in Melbourne. Candace is unphased by this success, in fact she sees it as a positive. It's taught her about the importance of collaboration and opened her up to the ways in which you are able to learn from others. 'It's a very different experience to lock yourself in your office and write a play in your own head'.
The success of Three Birds One Cock has also given them the opportunity to grow in experience. Their participation in the VCA's Frisk Festival allowed them to cut their teeth before entering the 'real world', whilst the Fringe Festival gave them a chance 'to be an emerging artist, to come in at an entry level'. These experiences, coupled with the positive critical reviews they received from both Melbourne and Adelaide Fringe Festivals, meant that when they came to pitching for inclusion in the Poppy Seed Festival they felt confident in saying, 'we're young, we're fresh, we're sort of green, but you can trust us. If you give us a chance we'll deliver something great, and here's the response to show it'.
Attitudes towards women in the public eye is their focus in LadyCake. They wanted to explore the ways in which we mythologise women who are in the public eye, and just as readily remove them from the pedestal we have created for them. Marie Antoinette seemed like the perfect device as she incorporates this polarity; she is remembered as a fashion icon and a celebrity, but also as the Queen who had her head chopped off because of her extravagances. 'We wanted to use her story to draw modern day parallels about the kind of bubble we might live in … [about] how media and propaganda can have an influence on how you perceive a public figure.'
Their research involved reading articles, watching documentaries and artistic interpretations such as Sophia Coppola's 2006 film, along with drawing inspiration from other theatre shows and events that are happening in today's world. They explored their research using physicalisation methods that allowed anything and everything to be played out, then 'mined' the material, picking out the good bits and chucking away the bad. Next they sat down and constructed a script drawing on 'sharp language and a lot of physical humour between the three of us to tell a story with our bodies'. The end result will be 'a lot of comedy, a lot of pink, a bit of a party and, potentially, a surprising take on the truth of our story', told through the eyes of three of Marie Antoinette's handmaidens.
They hope audiences will laugh, but also re-think what they know of Marie Antoinette, asking themselves questions about the extent to which we never really know another person, least of all a person in the popular eye.
Whilst LadyCake is currently taking up much of their brainspace they have plenty of ideas of where they'd like to go in the future. They'd love to tour LadyCake, especially to the Nati Frinj deep in the wheat belt of Western Victoria, where they already have a connection. They have ideas they'd like to pitch to other Festivals, and they'd love to make a show at La Mama.
'Potentially if we could be picked up by a different Festival in the next two years we'd be absolutely stoked. We'll see where the winds take us.'
Three Birds Theatre
15 - 27 November 2016
Photo – Jules Tahan