“We’re going to some very strange places” – Emily Tomlins on her new show, Niche.

4 years ago
Stacey Waters

In today’s era of Instagram fame and direct access to celebrities and stars via social media, Niche aims to explore the concept of celebrities in the modern age and how the public views them. Stacey Waters from Pop Culture-y was able to chat with Emily Tomlins, one of the co-creators and performers of Niche, about the inspiration behind the show and her experience with creating her own production company, Elbow Room.

Niche appears to be a very interesting concept. With an exploration of women and the way society portrays and regards them – would you describe Niche at heart as a decidedly female positive production?

We’ve created Niche to explore, tackle, challenge and celebrate some of the things that go along with identifying as a woman, in the public and private spheres.

Obviously Eryn Jean and I can’t begin to cover this experience in its complexity, but it’s been very important to us to make a show that allows space for parts of this discussion. We’re going to some very strange places; as women, as human beings, and as global citizens.

Some really difficult questions are coming up. But we wouldn’t have it any other way; that’s what makes the work interesting.

It can always be a challenge with only two cast members primarily during a show. Was it difficult to co-ordinate the script around just two of you, while still attempting to create and keep an entertaining and engaging storyline?

Eryn Jean and I created a show together for the first time in 2009. It was a two-hander about two clowns, a tiny chorus. We worked together so well, we knew we wanted to create more work as a team.

This show was always intended as another two-hander, but something that could challenge us. The challenges of creating a story with two actors has often been at the heart of the joy that drives this production. We decided very early on not to limit ourselves – to create opportunities to go beyond a conventional story-line, to inhabit multiple shapes. We hope that this challenge will be exactly where the entertainment comes from.

Also, the music by Eryn Jean Norvill, Marcel Dorney and Robin Waters, are all originals. Was the music created to accompany the show or did some songs inspire certain parts of the production more?

The music and the script have been written hand in hand with each other. The lyrics and the ideas behind the songs were created early on, generated by Eryn Jean as we were both generating the script.

They are now being transformed in to pop produced songs with the help of Marcel Dorney and Robin Waters. Because of this symbiotic process the music influences the script influences the music.

The plot of Niche seems to hit deeply into celebrity culture which is rife in today’s age- with many celebrities being easily accessible via social media, and even individuals of the public craving that same online following. Was there a deciding moment or particular part of this culture that served as the inspiration behind the idea of Niche?

As you say, we are now so saturated by access to media, to celebrity, to each other, that creating a show like this means that inspiration is everywhere. Sometimes you think you have had an original thought about how crazy something could be, and then you find it online.

The inspiration for Niche came from many places. Originally we wanted to explore an icon. A woman who had symbolically moved beyond the rules, but in fact was still confined by them. Inspiration also came very heavily from the myriad of ways in which people try to find where they belong and how they present this for public consumption – and ultimately what drives them to do this.

You’re quite well known within the theatre world for having branched out to co-found your own production company (Elbow Room) which has gathered a very nice collection of accolades and awards. What was the initial inspiration that you had to lead you to the process of founding Elbow Room?

Marcel Dorney, my co-founder and co-artistic director, and I moved to Melbourne ten years ago. At the time we were both working steadily in subsidised theatre in Brisbane but what was missing for us was being able to consistently create our own work, and provide a platform for others to do the same.

Our founding intention behind the company, and something that is still very present in our ethos, is creating theatre that asks big questions in an accessible way, both through intellectual rigour and through great storytelling.


Niche is showing from 16th to 26th of August at Northcote Town Hall. Tickets can be purchased here

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