MKA’s Double Feature at NEON

MKA_Double FeatureOpening this week, is a double bill presented by local company MKA. Having developed a reputation for works that continually defy convention, whilst constantly seeking to be non self-defined, the works being here written by Tobias Manderson-Galvin and Morgan Rose shall bare no exception.

The first, Lucky takes a look at issue’s close to home close to heart, most importantly our current political landscape and the swelling idea of nationalism, using the ANZACS and Pauline Hanson as metaphor. Whereby the second, Lord Willing & the Creek Don’t Rise takes influence from post storm ravaged New Orleans in 2009, where from this devastation, a narrative which expose the exact moment when humans crack- emerges, it’s a stark, confronting situation that borders on the unbelievable.

Jessi Lewis had a chat with both writers, with the first of these dense works to be explored was Lucky, written by Tobias who explains in detail just what led him to present a work that deals with issues very much of the “now” and the challenges faced by presenting such material.

Tobias in regards to the political undertones in your piece, why have you chosen now to explore them?
The rise of the reclaim groups, the return of Pauline Hanson, Anzac hysteria. And of course my own slow march towards POWER. POWER. TOTAL POWER. These are a few nationalist projects, from the state funded to the radical and independent, that are alive and active presences in Australian cultural life, right now. The question of what a nation is, and what this one means is probably a question that lasts as long as the nation itself but right now there’s a violence and urgency about the national conversation. Australia has a strong tradition of music hall and vaudeville style satire; and this lends from that, and also the perhaps more UK style ‘state of a nation’ play and finally also your German, Brecht style, epic theatre.

Where did you draw inspiration for this work?
My nickname when I was 19 years old (and weirdly again when i was in my mid 20s) was Lucky and I thought it would make for recognizable branding for old friends of that time that don’t appear to have facebook or aren’t friends with me anymore who I could really flaunt my high profile famous life by seemingly naming a play after myself. Also my director, John Kachoyan, he told me I had to call my play that, and you don’t mess with John Kachoyan. Everyone knows that. A few people didn’t and who are they you ask? Exactly! Who?

So I had a title but I needed a way justify it so the title, and also as it happens the seed of this new work, came from riffing on the admittedly quite conservative writer Donald Horne’s 1964 cultural critique The Lucky Country. Ever since Horne’s book was written people have been misquoting his meaning to make it into some Fantasia, like ‘the American Dream’ or something nonsense like that, often to promote strange right wing ideals, but what he meant was basically the state of Australia has been successful because it inherited the wealth, structure and powers of Westminster (and the West in general really) and more locally: incredible mineral wealth; and so the people of Australia have been able to be pretty lazy on their journey to get to where they are now.

Obviously no indigenous Australian or any of the convicts back 200 years ago, or anyone in mandatory detention etc. would agree with half of that but like I said he’s a conservative writer and we are one of the most affluent nations on the planet, mostly, so fair point.

Being presented alongside Lord Willing & the Creek Don’t Rise, what do these two works share, and what differences do they afford?
The two works in MKA’s Double Feature are both intimate pieces, small casts about intense personal and totally fucked up relationships. Lord Willing and the Creek Don’t Rise by Morgan Rose is inspired by a true tale of human cannibalism that came up after Hurricane Katrina (Morgan’s from New Orleans herself). Both of these plays are about people who’ve escaped or been forgotten by the system that’s oppressed them. They’re both also funny as hell. They share a space too. You watch them both in under 2.5 hours. 60 minutes BLAM. take an interval. then another hour. BLAM. You’re done. Go home. You had art.

Morgan Rose is a writer and performer originally from the states, she has collaborated with a number of artists from across the globe, and continues to undertake training in different modes of training as a performer, here she is responsible for Lord Willing & the Creek Don’t Rise, the work at first glance appears as something that is pure fiction, but is actually far from…

Morgan, Tell us about New Orleans, what are the difference and similarities between it and Melbourne?
Well New Orleans is older. Grittier. It’s got a really dark past. But there’s a liveliness to it that you can’t shake. I do feel some similarities with Melbourne: The old architecture, the art, the food, the dive bars, the friendly people, the cracked pavement. I really love Melbourne, I feel at home here. A good thing about Melbourne is it’s possible to earn a living here. In New Orleans I had 3 jobs, worked 6 or 7 days a week, and still had trouble paying rent. In Melbourne life is balanced.

What have been some of your career highlights thus far?
I’ve always been a DIY artist. Funding in the US is laughable. So I wasn’t gonna wait around to be hired by someone or paid by someone. I knew if I wanted to make theatre I had to do it myself. So I did that. I feel like MKA has a somewhat similar outlook, and that’s why we work well together.

You’ve trained in Butoh, introduce us to the art form, how has it shaped your performance style?
Well I’m no expert, but I studied it for 6 months with a couple different companies. My partner, Kat Cornwell, is much more adept at the form than I am. I will say when I was first exposed to it, it sort of blew my mind. I loved how imprecise it looks compared to say ballet. It’s something about the openness of the form that keeps it from ever being boring. The performers are so emotionally connected to the content, it’s hinged on that, the brain connecting to the body, and that really does it for me.

It’s an interesting premise, eating your lover, how did you come to work with such a narrative?
It’s inspired by a true story that came out of New Orleans after the Hurricane. I haven’t been faithful to the story. Aside from the whole eating your lover premise it’s pretty much entirely fiction. But the story it was based on goes like this: Zachary Bowen jumped off the roof of the Omni Hotel in New Orleans about a year after Hurricane Katrina. When they found his body, in his pocket was a note wrapped in a plastic bag that said ‘This wasn’t an accident. I had to do this to pay for what I did. Go to my house.’

At his house police found the body of his lover, Addie Hall, dismembered. Each part of her had been cooked in a different way as if she were food. But the meal wasn’t complete. There were still half chopped vegetables on the counter. It’s as if he had come to in the middle of it all and realized what he’d done. I was really interested in what could drive a person to crack like that. However, what I came up with, is nothing like the real lives of these people.

What are some of the idea’s behind Lord Willing & the Creek Don’t Rise?
For me, and I wonder if audiences will agree (it’s okay if they don’t) it’s about what happens when a city in crisis – a people in crisis – are ignored. Ignored by the system and the people around them. And then of course the catchy one sentence summary is ‘It’s about a guy who eats his girlfriend.’ But, yeah, for me it’s more about loss.

Presented alongside Lucky, what do these works afford each other?
These are 2 one-act plays, by two young(ish) writers, and the Double Feature will be fast-paced, wild, and anarchic. Tobi and I, while we are very different writers, I think share some ideas when it comes to form: namely that there are no rules.

How do you see the work presented by MKA against the broader Melbourne Arts scene?
MKA do whatever they want. They don’t wait for a green light, and they ignore red tape. Also, they work hard. Their work is hard to characterize because they try anything and everything. They don’t stick to the same old, same old. I like that.

MKA’s Double Feature
The Lawler – Southbank Theatre, Southbank Boulevard, Southbank (Melbourne)
Season continues to 24 May 2015
Bookings: (03) 8688 0800 or online at: www.mtc.com.au/mka

For more information, visit: www.mtc.com.au or www.mka.org.au for details.

Image: courtesy of MKA

Editorial: Jessi Lewis

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