Patalog Collective has certainly chosen a play with pedigree as their debut theatrical production. Jez Butterworth’s MOJO opened at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1995, and since then has enjoyed a world wide audience both on stage and film. It also won Butterworth and Olivier Award. On our shores, was presented by the Sydney Theatre Company in 2014.
The play is a black comedy set in Soho and is a fast-paced gangster plot that tells the story of the Rock ‘n’ Roll underbelly of the 1950’s. For director, Ben Walter, the decision to use MOJO as Patalog’s initiation play was never in question.
“About 18 months ago, I was in the UK performing at a bunch of schools around the southern area of England. It was a very casual affair for the most part, we got to meet other students studying theatre, engage in workshops, watch their work, and then show the productions we were touring. Toward the end of our trip we were staying at particularly interesting and progressive school in Petersfield that had a reputation for high achievement in the Arts. We were invited to watch a sixth form class prepare a scene study for their final exams, in which an extremely talented group of young men performed a fast paced, somewhat terrifying, but at the same time very hilarious, excerpt from a play. I never caught the name of it, only that the playwright’s name was ‘Butterworth’. Shortly after, our troupe moved on to our next school and then through London and back to Melbourne no more than a week later.
I’d be lying if I claimed that in that moment I had the epiphany to produce that same play 18 months down the track. However, I certainly walked away from that day, impressed and inspired. There they were, these 6 young men, performing an age appropriate drama, with a setting and thematic concern that they could not only understand, but also engage with on a practical level.
November of that year I began to realise that the prospect of producing independent theatre was not as totally ludicrous as it seemed. At the time I wasn’t sure what show I wanted to produce. Being the debut production of a new company, I wanted it pack a punch and surprise audiences but also not be taken too seriously. Coming from an acting background myself, I was bias toward character/dialogue driven shows that could be done with minimal design and stagecraft and give the control back to the actors. With that in mind I began reading all manner of playwrights who had reputations for boasting these characteristics. During this time, I was fortunate to see the STC production of ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ featuring Josh McConville, an Australian actor who I had seen perform ‘Hamlet’ the previous year. After the show, I was reading up on his theatre credits and coincidentally stumbled on a play he’d done in 2014 simply titled ‘MOJO’. I saw the Butterworth name, read the play and was immediately reminded of that day in England. From then on, I never really looked back. The play was perfect, a beautifully eclectic mix of Pinter and Tarantino. MOJO is terrifying, hilarious, disconcerting and addictive, all done with impudent flair. From first reading of MOJO to this day, I have had no doubts that this is the debut show for Patalog Collective.”
Created for young artists, by young artists, Patalog Collective is an emerging theatre and production company dedicated to giving younger artists a platform to explore their passion for the arts at a professional level. Walter explains that Patalog Collective came from a number of different places.
“Patalog is an old internet handle I used to use for a photography folio I made way back when. It was a time in my life where my interests were shifting to the creative side of things. I was young and photography caught my interest; Patalog became sort of my identity in that online sphere. It was merely a label but it sort of stuck. Patalog Collective came about at time in my life where I had a pretty dry year creatively. From sort of January till November of 2016, I really hadn’t done very much and I felt like I wasted the year, but I also had only myself to blame, I was waiting for something to happen. It was that classic example of actors waiting for the phone to ring as opposed to picking up the phone themselves.
My mission statement for the company from its inception in December of 2016 is that I wanted to do something for young artists. I wanted young people to realise that they can produce independent theatre. For me it was an entirely foreign concept, until I got so fed up that it seemed the only option. I didn’t want to go through an institution or bureaucracy driven company and relinquish control of my work. Patalog Collective is sort of a metaphor for that, and the cast and crew of MOJO is no different. Everyone involved has a wonderful mutual respect for one an other, not only what they’re doing now, but what they’ve done in the past. It’s a wonderful symbiotic relationship. For audiences, above all, they should expect to see this dynamism. We really hope that this show will reflect the vigour, enthusiasm and real drive that everyone working on this project has.”
What’s next for the company is an interesting question for Walter. “It’s something I probably haven’t given enough thought to being so caught up in all things MOJO, ” he says. “I think the best answer I can give is simply “more”. I’ve loved this process thus far and I’d like to say that all those involved would feel the same way. I think it’s important that young voices continue to be heard in this industry and I’d like Patalog Collective to continue to be a part of that. As for specificities, we’ll just have to wait and see. I’m not even limited to theatre – Patalog Collective is a storytelling production company, so we’d love to broaden our label to mediums like film as well. For the time being though, we hope people will engage in MOJO and not to hesitate to get in contact with us if they want to be a part of the family. At the crux of it, these endeavours are only realistic if you have a really passionate collective of people behind them.”
MOJO is no-holds-barred – both brutally terrifying and funny – it promises a wild ride.
Says Walter: “I like to think people will be surprised by this show. It’s a really unique play and it lets our actors shine. I hope audiences go in not really knowing what to expect and leave not really sure what they just witnessed, but it was a romp so who the hell cares. It throws you around, shakes you up and then violently spits you out, all with the same boyishly impudent charm. It’s funny, it’s scary, it’s poignant but above all, I challenge anyone not to be entertained.”
June 6 -10
TICKETS @: https://www.tickethost.com.au/eview.aspx?Perf=1781&Event=1174