Oysters and clammy palms
I've been in Melbourne 5 days now and I'm seriously considering if living here would be viable. Melbourne is the gutsy, gritty culture capital of Australia. Since arriving I've spent most of my time hanging out in St Kilda (the Brighton of Melbourne... but way closer).
We opened The Worst of Scottee (WOS) for it's second season with Theatre Works on Tuesday. I spent most of Monday grumpy that I had to do this show again - it's not a feel good piece is it?! No one wants to constantly remind themselves they were a knob head.
As opening night approached I was nervous. I haven't performed WOS for a few months - it was clammy palms and shaky hands at curtains. The response has again been marvellous. I've done a few radio appearances, grabbed two 4* reviews (here and here) and met some wonderful audience members - some of whom were on their second visit!
I love working with Daniel and Theatre Works, they are really on the ball and want to make everything as pain free as possible - that's important with a show like this. They put on oysters on opening night... love that.
I have been meeting lots of people to discuss making work in Melbourne. Today I took the tram to North Melbourne and met with Georgie Meagher (whom you might recognise from her summer moonlighting with Duckie!). Georgie has just taken up a post at Next Wave - a festival and training programme for new and emerging artists to create, develop and present. Live artists who are just starting out and want to make new work here should reach out to Georgie. We spoke a lot of UK and Oz similarities and funding culture - I was particularly critical of artists who are informed by funding agendas - the UK is rife with people making shows about the body as a result of Wellcome trusts bountiful pockets.
My Melbourne tea date was with Jenny Jennings of ThisIsPopBaby. Jenny has made and toured work in Australia and was really helpful in sharing the pitfalls of touring the antipodean islands. She suggested finding one big anchor gig that can cover your base costs and building a tour around that.
If you get the chance to come to Melbourne you have to pop to Arts House. It's very similar to BAC in terms of their approach to making work, what they programme and it's based in a converted Town Hall. Their programme is exciting and risky. Melbourne makers seem to have the guts / public subsidy available to make the experimental work. Live art is a new art form here.
I then met with the very lovely Jackie Johnston from Arts House. We walked through the streets of North Melbourne discussing immigration and it's complexities. Jackie gave me a wonderful insight into making work here and we discussed the problematic ticket prices in Australia. My show is currently priced at $35 - that's £19 which I think is the higher end of what alternative theatre audiences want to pay. My fears are that work that is priced this high excludes those I want to see it. Jackie also had these feelings towards price over access and it made me think about how to make it accessible. I understand ticket price needs to be higher to make the books balance but diversity is far more important.
Daniel and I are really trying to get some dates off the ground in February / March but it's proving harder than we thought. Australia curates all of it's theatre and cabaret performance around festivals and fringe seasons. These fringe programmes are over subscribed meaning 2,000 artists are then fighting for an audience of 10,000 people not to mention registration fees, advertising and flights to the other side of the world.
The culture of fringe means artists are underpaid and overworked but what's more frightening is this informs the artistic decisions of what audiences get to see. It's becoming more apparent why Oz performance is largely variety, cabaret and circus - this is accessible, gets bums on seats, has a $30 ticket price and works in a festival capacity.
If I am going to make my summer season work here it's likely I'm going to need to knock on every door possible. I'm determined to make it work.
What I have noticed:
1. People don't like using the public transport. Sitting on a tram for 30 minutes is considered to be 'making the effort'.
2. Those Carling adverts from when I was a kid have informed my paranoia when using the toilet in the southern hemisphere. The less talk about funnel webs the better!
3. Australia is bloody expensive. A meeting with two producers, 3 coffees and 2 cupcakes stung me for $30! Be prepared to throw money at meetings.
What next? I need to find someone or something to sponsor my flights.