Evocatively dubbed as a mad and twisted cabaret, MAD WORLD promises a fully immersive performance and one not to be missed. The brain child of executive producer, musical director and co-conceiver, David Butler, creative director and co-conceiver, James Cutler, and choreographer and co-conceiver, Madison Lee, MAD WORLD is set to make its return performance in Fitzroy early February.
The project initially came about from a conversation between Butler and Lee. Their idea was to build a show around his drag persona Peppy Smears. “As we threw ideas back and forth, we reached out to James Cutler for his input and perspective on how and where in time my drag persona would make sense’,” says Butler. “The project then began to grow quite organically – and continues to develop and evolve – into the immersive experience that it is today. On a personal level, MAD WORLD is the meeting point of my creative interests and outlets. Drag for me started as an escape from the rules and expectations of musical theatre, opera and teaching which were the three areas of my work; and quickly became an empowering outlet both creatively and personally.”
A jaunty and twisted tale that transports both cast and audience back to the late 1930’s during WWII, this second season is the result of taking what worked from the first iteration and building upon that to give audiences a more layered and exciting experience.
“MAD WORLD continues to grow and evolve, with this return season being the second iteration and the intention of future iterations in coming years, ” says Butler,” The first iteration was in planning for a few months, with the development and rehearsal process taking place over 6 to 8 weeks. Our first “season” was only two shows, but planted the seed and encouraged us to keep working. Our fabulous venue Vau d’Vile Drag Cabaret and its owner Richard Taki pushed for us to come back for an extended season, which is the second iteration we are about to open. From the tremendous success of the first season and support from the venue, we’ve been able to invest in our team bringing on board a Production Manager (Brandon Pape), Stage (Kristy Griffin) and Assistant Stage Managers (Thomas Currie), an Environment Designer (Claire Marmur) and a book writer (Melissa David) to deepen the work and build more of a complete world for the audience to engage with. We are also so fortunate to have Lauren McKenna join us again in directing this epic work. The biggest challenge with a piece like this is the scale; each of the 13 characters have a complete narrative and story arc, plus a floorshow with live band. This is where having the incredible cast and team that we have is such a blessing in ensuring everything is at the highest quality.”
It is a bold audience indeed that will find themselves up close and personal with these creatures of the night as they navigate their way through a topsy turvy Lewis Carrollesque world that may not always make sense. The hope is that no two audience members have the same experience.
“The easiest way to describe the show is as a choose-your-own-adventure,” says Butler. ” The audience are transported to 1933 Berlin, spending an evening at Klub Wonderland with the many different creatures of the night. How they engage with the show is entirely up to them; whether they want to grab a drink and watch the floorshow, or if they want to explore and discover the many secrets, easter-eggs and stories hidden around the Klub – it is completely up to the individual.”
A distinctive style of show indeed and one that, as a collaborative effort, has inspired Butler to identify what is most fulfilling to him as an artist.
” I’ve never been a hugely competitive person, and through a project like this (and the handful I have produced before) it is the collaborative aspect that I get most excited by,” he says. “Through collaboration we can pool our ideas and perspectives together to represent the most diverse and resonant stories possible; we learn from one-another about the conversations that need to be had on a social and political level and create a canvas for an audience to paint their story into ours. I also think the nature of immersive work speaks to the desire of an audience wanting to connect more actively with art, stories and indeed each other. It encourages us to be present. Being part of something that connects people and gives the opportunity for self-discovery is very exciting to me.”
The project is produced by David Butler Studios, a vocal training school established by Butler after his graduation from VCE, and continues to encourage and support vocal ambitions amongst its students.
“I have been teaching music from my mid-teens. Following my degree in Music Performance (Voice) at the Victorian College of the Arts I started David Butler Studio full time, specialising in working with the voice,” explains Butler. “My goal with teaching is to cultivate a sustainable technique for each individual client while maintaining their individual goals. My approach is quite relaxed as it is so important that we retain the love and passion for what we do, especially when it becomes our job. I have been very fortunate that my work through the studio has also afforded me the opportunity to produce concerts, recitals, a comedy fundraiser, and now the biggest ongoing project I’ve been a part of in MAD WORLD.”
Butler states that the incredible thing about a show like MAD WORLD having 13 fully formed characters, is that the audience can stay (or try!) with a character that they identify with for the entire show and engage with their story. “We encourage our audiences to be curious and brave; they have an impact on the show and the characters of our world, ” he adds. “It is not possible to see everything that Klub Wonderland has to offer in a single visit. What we discovered last season was that around 40% of our audience returned the very next night to discover more. While our characters draw similarities to those in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, each character is rooted in history and is fundamentally human. The people these characters are based on really existed in the 1930s.”
Authentic and revolutionary, Butler acknowledges that to date, there has been nothing like MAD WORLD in Australia. “Whether you wish to follow a character and learn their story; to uncover the secrets of Klub Wonderland; or to simply come and enjoy the incredible singing and dancing in our floorshow – MAD WORLD has so much for everyone,” he says. “We feel very fortunate but also responsible for the format we are building. We are excited for the impact it will have on the Australian theatre scene.”
Blurring the line of theatrics and reality, MAD WORLD is an experience not to be missed.
Between Sunday 3 February 2019 7:00 PM and Wednesday 20 February 2019 7:00 PM
Vau d’Vile Drag Cabaret
62-70 Johnston St., Fitzroy, Victoria 3065