Devised by Zoe Pepper and Adriane Daff of award-winning Western Australian company, Side Pony Productions (Spirit of the Fringe Award, Perth Fringe World 2013 and Total Theatre Award nomination, Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2012) and told with the gripping intimacy of a tale whispered in your ear, The Confidence Man is a gripping thriller complete with family betrayal, underworld villains and unabated greed.
Co-creator Adriane Daff tells me that The Confidence Man started out three years ago as a much bigger work involving 24 characters who all lived together in a town. "We actually worked with the idea of using some characters from the board game Guess Who because we really liked the image of a bunch of people wearing oversized masks attending a funeral on a suburban oval somewhere," says Daff. The original idea of 24 characters in a town was soon redesigned into a more manageable and practical vision which now involves six characters and a house but, admits Daff, that's still been huge!
The Confidence Man is a thriller described as Dogville meets Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt. The plot follows Peter’s family in the midst of a deeply sinister and disturbing chain of events when a large sports bag full of cash is brought into his very ordinary home.
The really intriguing and innovative thing about this production is that the audience observe and create the action of the performance. Guided by a carefully crafted audio score audiences experience the performance through the eyes of one of the six characters. "Practically there was a lot of technology that we had to fine tune," says Daff. "The audience and the characters are all given headsets to wear and through those headsets they hear a pre-recorded track of their character. So that involved a bit of thought to figure out the best and most comfortable way for our audience participants to be plugged in and still able to hear everything and move freely, and to do it all in sync with the other five characters and 30 odd audience members. Also this track involves dialogue, inner thoughts and instructions. So there was a lot of timing work to be down to make sure that all the characters were moving in and out of one another's circles of attention at the right times, and then judging how long it would take an audience participant who had never heard the story before to do a task or action that we set out for them. It really strains your brain after a while but you get there in the end."
When writing, co-creators Daff and director Zoe Pepper were very interested in exploring empathy and its motivations and consequences. "Certainly in this instance where you have an opportunity to 'live' in someone else's head and be privy to why they make the decisions that they do, good and bad, hopefully that's going to provide a very empathetic experience for our participants," says Daff. "Zoe has always be really interested in the notion that even good people do bad things and our story has a bunch of reasonably ordinary people pushed to a point where they make very immoral and not very sensible decisions. The idea is to look at why that happens, and how people get there."
Side Pony Productions is Pepper's company and Daff considers himself to be lucky enough to be an Artistic Associate and collaborator for some 9 years. "This company is really the umbrella for all Zoe's work- writing and directing in theatre and film," Daff explains. "So we started working together, collaborating and devising back in 2004 and all told I think there's about three Side Pony shows I haven't worked on. All the rest I've managed to worm my way in there."
While participation might seem daunting to some Daff is quick to point out that you don't HAVE to participate you can just watch! "The audience members that sit around the edges of the house get to channel surf between the six different characters and are in complete control of what they hear and essentially their own story- which is really interesting," says daff. " But if you would like to participate, maybe you've always wanted to have a go up there or you're just intrigued to see what it would be like, we do look after you and it is very very fun. Just show up a bit earlier than the advertised start time and let us know you want to play."
The Confidence Man:
Season Wed 28 August – Sun 1 September 2013
Time Wed – Fri 6.30pm & 8.30pm / Sat 4.30pm, 6.30pm & 8.30pm / Sun 2.30pm, 4.30pm & 6.30pm
Post-show Q&A Thu 29 August 2013
Duration 60 minutes no interval
Venue Arts House, North Melbourne Town Hall, 521 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne
Tickets Full $30 / Conc $25 / Student $20
Bookings artshouse.com.au or 03 9322 3713