Playing as a part of the 2021 Melbourne Fringe Festival, What rhymes with orange?, written and performed by multi-disciplinary Isabella Perversi, is going digital.
The piece that started off as a dance show, as Perversi wanted to do something different, is a tender and funny two-hander following an ordinary couple simply trying to survive their relationship. Perversi says the story started to take over and she realised that it had to be a play.
“At the time, a lot of relationships seemed to be ending due to lockdown and it really got me thinking about what keeps people together, ” she says. “Seeing the pressures on couples, I started to ask myself is love enough to maintain a relationship? It seems so ethereal and something I wanted to understand.”
The story revolves around Rosie, a young aspiring dancer, who must choose between her dreams and her relationship. “In my own life, I’ve certainly noticed times where I have chosen my career over personal matters and have missed out on important events,” says Perversi. “The dance industry (like other artistic careers) is an industry where it’s drilled into you from such a young age that it has to be your whole life if you are to be successful. Over the last few years I think my friendships have been strained over this. Sometimes you just make the wrong decisions. Or maybe it’s the right one?”
Perversi feels that nowadays there is such a strong sense that we have to be successful in whatever we do. “Success is the main driver in our lives. It’s like the ego has gone into acceleration, supercharged by Social Media. It feels like creating a family is no longer an aspiration, it’s either a hindrance or a token. These are all pressures that contemporary audience’s face.”
On the question of what would the team like audiences to take away after viewing, Perversi opts for director Alanah Guiry’s take.
“I want the audience to feel reassured that it’s okay to not have things figured out. So much of our social media feed is a performative reel of having everything put together nicely. I’d like a shoulder pat feeling that life is messy and no one really knows what we are doing. That it’s okay to change.
Tom, and especially Rosie, use their phones as a barrier to hard conversations. In our current existence, most of us are guilty of doing this to disengage in a form of escapism but what we are actually doing is stitching off our ability to connect deeply and be present.
I also want us to be more aware of how important honest communication is from the very beginning of romantic relationships. We are all so scared of hurting others feelings and asking the big questions that we just…don’t. We people-please so much, when we want someone to like us that we don’t internally check in with what we personally want. Not having these discussions such as “do you want children” ends up being a fatal conversation down the track. The fatal flaw with Rosie and Tom (and many couples I’ve seen) is that they equate love with agreement.”
Difficult as it is to work as an actor and writer, Perversi says that after the show was cast she made a commitment that she wouldn’t change the writing during the rehearsals, but, she admits, she failed miserably.
“I think it’s probably pretty painful to be in a show with the writer (Ha! Sorry Fabio). During the rehearsal period, I had rewritten too many times and it got to the point where I had to say enough is enough. I do enjoy being in a show I have written as I feel it’s a luxury to know it so well and to also have the benefits of being able to change things. I also think it’s pretty stressful for the first few weeks because all you can focus on is the writing and perpetual thoughts of ‘who wrote this garbage?'”
Perversi says – perhaps tongue in cheek, that her favourite things to write about right now are millennial dilemmas. However, she admits to not really think about this. “For me there must be an emotional component to what I’m writing, and a political one,” she says. “Whether it is about being a woman, a millennial or an introverted extrovert. But ultimately it has to be archetypal if it’s to resonate for time to come.
My process involves a lot of word vomit into journals, notes on my phone and voice recordings, mostly when I get into bed or go for a walk. And then when I have the story/characters in my head I’ll sit down for a long stint to write it. Although I had the idea of the play for several months, I wrote it over one night. It’s like back in the days when you would do all-nighters, only this involved less alcohol and more yawns.”
A show that has, of course, like so many over the past 18 months or so, been impacted by COVID lockdown, the team have decided to bring it to a digital audience. Perversi says the decision between in person and digital was made for them when Melbourne Fringe’s in-person Festival was converted to digital.
“Between the options of cancelling or going digital… well this show has been my lifeline during lockdown, it was a no brainer,” she says.
Last year Perversi’s play EMBER was in a very similar position but the team only had a week to get that one done though – so, she admits, this one feels like a breeze.
“Rehearsing on ZOOM was challenging but at the same time allows you to really focus in on your scene partner,” she says. Not to mention getting used to working with a camera!”
RE: the practicalities, again luck is on her side, as Perversi’s partner owns a production company, so she can “use him and abuse him for all of my production needs… Just kidding, he’s alright.”
Perversi’s admiration is clear when she acknowledges her talented team – Alanah Guiry , Fabio Motta and Ross Dwyer … “What comes out can’t be less than Michelin Starred.”
Nominated for a Green Room Award for Performance (2021) and Best in Theatre at the 2020 Melbourne Fringe Festival for her debut play EMBER, Perversi now brings Melbourne audiences What rhymes with orange? – her intimate new work. It’s always a dream when all the ingredients come together in the perfect way to make the perfect dish.
8 – 17 October 2021
Playing exclusively online, on demand.
Tickets: $25 Extra Artist Support, $15 Full, $5 Unwaged
Bookings and viewing access at www.melbournefringe.com.au/event/what-rhymes-with-orange
More information at www.isabellaperversi.com
Publicity image: Ross Dwyer