The statement that this year’s Poppy Seed Theatre Festival’s third work, What’s Yours is Mine, posits is: It’s impossible to own anything – whether it is land, people or dilapidated dogs. The world premiere piece by Hotel Now also ponders: How much am I worth? What would you do for all my possessions? Am I the sum of all my worldly goods?
Notions of entitlement and ownership are explored through an absurd lens by this emerging company when three disillusioned young Australians decide to go on a road trip of discovery after their 2000 Olympics reunion. Says director Yvonne Virsik: “We follow their minds into crazed nightmares of game shows, right-wing pollies, interpretive dance and iconic Aussie junk food. It’s fun, it’s now and it’s at the Butterfly Club!”
VCA graduate and Artistic Director at the Monash Uni Student Theatre, Virsik was drawn to the piece through a discussion with co-founder of Hotel Now, Tom Halls who is also a performer in the piece as well as a co-devisor.
“Tom Halls and I were talking about a piece he, Simone French and Hayden Burke were thinking about proposing for The Poppy Seed Festival under the banner of the company he shares with Simone and Cait Spiker – Hotel Now – which creates vivid, cheeky and immediate interactive works, ” explains Virsik. “I’ve worked with Tom a few times and have had a ball being challenged by his bold ideas and aesthetic, so I was keen to learn more about their idea. The starting point for our discussion was a short Chekhov piece called The Proposal. We talked about what interested us most about the text and found ourselves focusing on the overwhelming desire we have in the West to own things and ideas, and how some of this is palpably ridiculous.”
Virsik enjoys exploring a wide range of styles and genres, and a challenge she loves as a director is finding the tone and rhythm that best unearths an exciting and truthful delivery of a piece. “I’m becoming aware that I’m often attracted to stories or themes where characters’ agency or access to self expression has been threatened, ” she says. “My works tends to oscillate between intimate one or two-hander pieces exploring simple human stories and large-scale dystopian dramas. But I love a good comedy too!”
What’s Yours Is Mine has enabled Virsik to explore and guide her actors through very contemporary and familiar themes that resonate with more than just a gong of truth – particularly given recent events in the USA.
“As we’ve explored ideas on the floor and in discussion, we’ve moved towards focusing on our sense of ‘right ‘ to ownership over possibilities for our lives, of our own ‘Australian Dream’. Days after the Trumpet has loudly sounded across the world this sadly feels even more current than we thought. We all want agency over our future possibilities, over construction of our identity, over our ‘voice’ and creating a ‘way of life’ we feel attached to, that reflects our values. But this agency seems so often strangled by political machinations and the social climates created by others seeking their own agency. In a way it’s like we’re all dogs seeking to cock our legs over as much as we can. This all sounds a bit heavy, but as in true Hotel Now style, the piece is developing into something truly tongue-in-cheek and self satirizing.”
The Poppy Seed Festival is now in its second year and a true anchor for emerging and established companies both to present their productions under a banner of support and encouragement.
Says Virsik: “Poppy Seed is an incredible, unique initiative: a festival that supports the staging of four contrasting independent works in a range of Melbourne venues. It’s great to be a part of something where you know everyone wants the work to be the best it can be and has your back. There is a great camaraderie amongst the teams of the different shows – a lot of us know each other or are excited to be getting to know each other. The buzz generated by the festival team has been extraordinary. Our piece is on at The Butterfly Club and the team there are the most accessible, wise and supportive people you can imagine. I’d say to anyone considering applying next time – go for it!”
What’s Yours is Mine states that the Australian dream in 2016 seems a little bit closer to a closet full of Gorman clogs than a hardworking man in a pair of thongs. Virsik describes a work that “… excavates notions of ownership, identity and the Australian Dream, ripping at the seams of the Union Jack with its tongue firmly in its cheek.”
What’s Yours Is Mine
November 22 – December 4