On the Couch with Ellen Graham

Ellen-Graham-AAR-On-the-CouchWho is Ellen Graham?
I’m an actor, playwright, drag king, clown, podcaster, and streamer. I definitely dabble in a lot of different things. I don’t know what I’d do if I just had to settle down in one artistic field – I’d probably go a little mad.

I’m about to debut my first solo show, Be A Doll, Won’t You? at the Adelaide Fringe and it’s probably the scariest thing I’ve done so far… and I used to play roller derby! Not to mention my role-playing podcast, Role to Cast is also performing 4 unique lives shows, so there are a few nights where I’ll be running from show to show.

I think that probably says enough of me as a person- I’m a bit restless, creative and always looking to make life a bit more complicated for myself.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
I’ve always been drawn towards death – I think it’s the thing we avoid talking about or looking at and as such I developed a fascination with death and mourning pretty young. I’ve also had my fair share of experience with grief so I’d love to work in a funeral home and be able to be there for people in some of their hardest times.

I also make a table-top role-playing podcast so if I could be a professional game-master that’d be amazing!

Who inspires you and why?
Guillermo Del Toro is a huge influence on me as an artist. Everything he does is a labour of love and you can see his passion oozing through all elements in his films. Not to mention he has love of monsters and the macabre and loves to flip our ideas of what is loveable about the scary and what is scary about the loveable.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
I’d like to hope that what I do now makes a difference- even if it’s slight. I believe that art can speak to us in a really visceral way and if the art I make can leave people feeling different or changed in some way, then I’d call that a win. Especially since art can be a real empathy machine or vehicle for social change. Making shows that open up people’s perspectives is what I’m all about.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
It’s a toss up between Naples or Dublin. I don’t get to travel much but those are two places that I’ve been that just made me wake up feeling excited to be living and breathing where I was. Both have a very magical feeling to them- like you could discover something new just around the corner.

I’m going to go with Naples because I am Italian and it was special to be a bit closer to my heritage. Not to mention, there is a lot of strange little tucked away sites- travelling under the city in it’s old aqueducts, an underground catacomb built by a cult, beautiful marble statues and of course- true blue, Napoli pizza!

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Usually it’s my favourite bar, Therapy on Peel St. It’s a tiny little cocktail bar that very much has the feel of an old-school speakeasy. You go down these stairs and it’s dark and vintage and the cocktail lists are astounding! I try something different every time I’m there – and it’s just a great place to sit and chat to your friends.

What are you currently reading?
I went on a bit of an ‘unhinged female main character’ phase while rehearsing my fringe show, Be A Doll, Won’t You?’. My main character is a bit of a man-hater and full of deep-seated and buried rage so I wanted to channel that energy. In a week-long manic binge, I went through My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Odessa Moshfegh, Boy Parts by Eliza Clark and Bunny by Mona Awad. After the show, I’m hoping to read something a bit lighter, hopefully!

What are you currently listening to?
As with all my plays, I’ve done a little curated playlist on Spotify that helps me get into the mood and tone of the show. In it there is a nice sprinkle of girly-pop like Kim Petras and Marina and the Diamonds plus the raw emotion of Mitski. My director, Zola and I have also just been repeatedly humming the opening hook of Oblivion by Grimes since Grimes has been what I’ve put on to write to. I have complicated feelings towards Grimes as a person, but dang it- she writes good tunes.

Happiness is?
Ha! I know it when I see it- or I suppose, when I feel it. As someone who has frequent depressive bouts, I try and hold onto happiness when I can. I’ve found it’s usually the little things, sitting down to a good meal, finding a new cafe, trying something new, burning a nice candle, tidying up something you’ve been putting off for ages, when your dog does something wildly silly… There’s lots to find when you take it all in.

What does the future hold for you?
Hopefully a little teeny-tiny break from work where I can sit down and finish one of the 100s of video games I’ve started?

For me, it’s enough to keep on working in the arts- in whatever avenue I can. Thankfully I’ve really diversified my practice so new opportunities do keep popping up for me – from theatre, writing, drag, podcasting, table-top role-playing, streaming… I’m sure there’s something I’m not covering but it’ll turn up soon enough!

My big pie-in-the-sky dreams are for my theatre company, Madness of Two to have a permanent home or office space in the future where we could then support other artists and my podcast company, Role to Cast to have their own panel in a big convention like PAX or Supanova.

No matter what happens – I’ll still be trucking along as an artist, I don’t think there’s any danger of me not keeping busy!

Ellen presents her intimate one-person production, Be A Doll, Won’t You? at The Breakout at The Mill, as part of the 2023 Adelaide Fringe: 3 – 5 March. For more information, visit: www.adelaidefringe.com.au for details.

Image: Ellen Graham (supplied)