Gravity Dolls’ Tim Rutty talks about doing handstands on PVC pipes, improvised circus and the Poppy Seed Theatre Festival

3 years ago
Til Knowles

Here at Popculture-y, board games, 80s and 90s video games, Japanese game shows, and circus are some of our favourite things, so it’s a great delight to see them all combined in Tandem, the final show in the 2017 Poppy Seed Theatre Festival. The latest production from Gravity Dolls, duo Tim Rutty and Tarah Carey, Tandem is an interactive, improvised romp through stories and game play. Tim Rutty kindly answered our excited questions about the show, circus, and the Poppy Seed Festival.

Circus often seems to involve a lot of careful practice and precision. What made you choose to develop such an interactive and spontaneous show?

Basically, we love to challenge ourselves and once we had the idea of doing an interactive and spontaneous show centered around bringing board games and retro video games to life, we couldn’t resist the temptation and now we’ve made one.

What, for you as a performer, is the appeal of an audience-led show?

It’s something that we very rarely get the opportunity to do, so its really quite exciting. There is a certain amount of the show that we have planned and prepared, but we don’t know what order a lot of it will be performed in or which moments will actually make it into the show each night.

What’s the scariest/most difficult act in Tandem?

The scariest and most difficult act in the show is definitely the opening, where we will be hand-standing, walking along and tumbling off 10cm wide plumbing pipes (yes, they are just PVC plumbing pipes from Bunnings). We have a range of lengths from 30cm to 1.7meters which when we stand them on their ends they are very strong, but can also very easily (and quickly!) kick out from underneath us!

How do you blend theatre and circus?

For our first show, My Life in Boxes, we created a fully integrated physical and spoken script where everything was in service of the narrative. Tarah trained as an actor at USQ (University of Southern Queensland) and I trained as a circus performer at NICA (the National Institute of Circus Arts). When we first started working together we spent a long time training each other in our own disciplines and then spent a lot time training to do both of them at the same time without diminishing the quality of either art-form. For My Life in Boxes our characters never referenced their physicality nor were they aware of it. It was there for the audiences benefit to gain deeper understand of the characters mental and emotional states. This resulted in a unique style of extraordinary blocking.

For Tandem this is quite different, because of the interactive and spontaneous nature of the show it would be too difficult to add in the theatrical elements of a fully scripted narrative as well. Instead for this one we are working with alternative props (such as the plumbing pipe) and bringing board games/ video games to life.

What drew you to circus performing?

I started off in gymnastics when I was 6 years old but quickly grew tired of the competitive and linear nature of it, so when I discovered circus at the age of 10 I made the switch straight away. The chaos and the excitement is what first drew me in, but as I got older and more interested in theatre and visual art and began to see circus as a fantastic expressive tool that can transcend just the one art-form. It can be used to heighten characters internal emotional narrative in pieces such ‘My Life in Boxes’ and ‘If These Walls Could Talk’ by Dislocate.

What’s it like working with Mathew Brown?

Working with Matty really is an absolute dream! The guy is incredibly talented and generous with all of his ideas, knowledge and cheerful spirit. He is a super hard worker and we have had a lot of laughs along the way.

The two of you have been working together since 2014. What has been the biggest inspiration you’ve drawn from one another?

Tarah has inspired me to be more daring with what I put on stage and to push my artistic practice further. I first met Tarah in 2012 while I was studying at NICA. At the time I was very focused on, and limit by, a particular style of performing. The kind of work I was doing back then restricted my ability layer character and meaning into my performances as well as my ability to connect with the audience to the level I do now.

What’s the best part about being involved in the Poppy Seed Theatre Festival?

The best thing about being apart of the Poppy Seed Theatre Festival is the mentoring we get in the lead up to all of our show seasons. The Poppy Seed team is very supportive and really want to help us get better at producing our work. I have learnt so much from them already and we still have plenty of time left with them.


*Update: unfortunately, Tandem has had to be postponed due to injury. The show is expected to go ahead mid 2018*

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