Amy keeps finding bodies in the hotel bedrooms she cleans, Jim’s been trying to ignore the smell coming from one of his self storage units, and Kate’s annoyed she had to waste her whole day talking to the police. As each of these separate stories is linked through gruesome discoveries, the worlds around Amy, Jim, and Kate begin to fall apart…
As a part of this year’s Melbourne Fringe Festival, shiny new theatre company One Little Room have brought to life Breathing Corpses. In the words of co-producer, actor, and company co-founder Alice Daly: “Breathing Corpses is a play that comes immediately off the page, exploring loss and loneliness, desire for more than we have, and what can go wrong when you’re forced to pursue it. Things everybody experiences, but which take on the scale of tragedy when they happen to us as individuals.”
We were lucky enough to speak to co-founders of the company, and actors in the production, Alice Daly (AD) and Jaq Avery (JA) about the play, their passions, and the new Candyland Arts Space.
What’s the most difficult aspect of Breathing Corpses?
AD: The play is a wonderful mix of horror and comedy. It’s required a lot of careful work to make sure both these elements have room to breathe.
Tell us a bit about the characters you play?
JA: I play Amy; she’s a hotel maid and she’s been pretty well roughed up by life. It’s made her tough and hardened, so she tries really hard not to let anything get to her – even when she keeps stumbling upon dead bodies.
AD: Kate, my character, is on the edge. It’s a boiling hot day, and she’s stuck in the house with a boyfriend she doesn’t seem to like very much, and with his dog, who keeps barking. It’s a powder keg.
Candyland Arts Space is a converted industrial space, and viewers can watch the production from four different angles. Why have you decided to stage the play like this?
AD: The language used in Breathing Corpses indicates that it’s set in Southern Yorkshire, where Laura Wade grew up. It’s an area which has suffered since the decline of its traditional industries and, though it’s not referred to directly in the play, you can feel this in the choices the characters make. We felt that performing the play in an industrial environment would help us both to explore those themes, and to bring the audience closer to the action.
JA: Regardless of your performance space, every audience member is going to experience a show differently. We believe there’s something terribly exciting about using that to our advantage. I hope people in the audience will be able to connect to different characters in different ways, based simply on where they happen to sit.
What’s it like performing in non-traditional arts space?
JA: It’s tough! You have to be so much larger than life on stage to fill a venue like ours. It can also be challenging to attract audiences to performance space with which they’re not already familiar. We hope that people will see it as an adventure, and be all the more ready to immerse themselves in the play.
Why did you found One Little Room Theatre?
JA: A group of us graduated from the 2015 NIDA Open Actors Studio and found that we wanted to find a way to continue working together. We hope that, eventually, One Little Room will be a platform to provide similar opportunities to other emerging actors and creatives.
AD: And to develop. We learned a lot through the course but it was a very supportive environment. We wanted to test ourselves against a more exacting, professional, standard.
This is One Little Room’s premiere season, and it’s crowdfunded. What lead to that decision? What has that process been like?
AD: We’ve invested in the project ourselves and kept our costs as low as possible, but we wanted to make sure we could afford to stage the show in an interesting way that takes advantage of the unique space we’re playing in. The Australian Cultural Fund is a great way to raise money because it allows you to form an ongoing relationship with people who are interested in your work. As a donor, you really feel part of the success of the artist or company you’re supporting.
JA: The process has been occasionally nerve wracking, but also very rewarding. Seeing the name of a friend or benevolent stranger attached to a donation is genuinely heart-warming. We’re continuing our crowdfunding campaign with the Australian Cultural Fund until the end of September, because we hope the season will attract potential supporters that we haven’t been able to reach yet.
Both of you are acting in as well as producing the play (and co-founding the company!). How have these dual roles affected each other?
AD: It can be difficult. I tend to procrastinate, and it’s been very easy to find production issues I need to resolve before I can focus on character work. I’ve frequently needed to remind myself that the point of all the production work is to create opportunities for the group to grow as actors.
JA: They’ve been constantly fighting for my time, and both have been keeping me up nights! Although I will say that we have been very lucky to have an incredible director in Brenda Addie, who has made the constant changing of hats during the rehearsal process a lot smoother.
Who are your biggest influences – both as actors and as company-runners?
JA: Hazel Hayes. She’s an emerging British filmmaker/actor/youtuber, and she makes me want to work harder, and make better things.
AD: Sonya Suares, from Melbourne company Watch This! I’m lucky to have known her since student theatre days, and she’s a constant source of encouragement and inspiration.
If you could produce/perform in/direct any play, what would it be?
JA: Produce: The Tamer Tamed by John Fletcher (it’s devastatingly under performed)
Perform in: Oleanna by David Mamet
AD: I just watched the backstage trailer for A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer. It’s a collaboration between Bryony Kimmings and Complicite, and I’m jealous of everyone who’s involved in it.
What other shows are you most looking forward to seeing at Melbourne Fringe this year?
JA: Alice Tovey: Personal Messiah, Please Come Closer (Don’t Touch Me), and Pinocchio: Restrung.
AD: I’m really looking forward to Blind Spot and Distraction Society. If our performances were not in conflict, I’d also be running to see Essential Theatre’s Julius Caesar.
Breathing Corpses is on from the 15th of September until the 1st of October, Monday to Saturday, at 7:30pm. Tickets are $35 or $30 concession, and are available at the Melbourne Fringe website.