On the Couch with Jeff Achtem

Jeff Achtem Arts Review On the Couch - photo by Andrew WuttkeWho is Jeff Achtem?
I grew up in a lovely home with no TV, and plenty of yard space to explore and get into trouble. I was a prolific LEGO builder, and quite enjoyed making large useless fortress type creations. And then I’d fill them with grasshoppers. It was a happy time for me. Not so much for the grasshopper community

What would you do differently to what you do now?
It’s quite a hustle to earn a living in the arts. If I could go back in time, I would certainly give my younger self a kick in the butt to pay more attention in math class (touring budgets are endless and relentless) and to be more patient with some of my earlier ideas.

Who inspires you and why?
I get inspired by theatre makers and artists who are madly trying to create something new and unique in their work. I feel like a bit of me dies inside every time I see work that is replicated and regurgitated.

What would you do to make a difference in the world? 
Buy less stuff. Fight the planned obsolescence built into every new thing that I buy. Buy less stuff.

Favourite holiday destination and why? 
Tasmania – great land full of gorgeous people.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why? 
When friends come to town, we take them down to the local creek to try and spot an owl. Nothing like a good nighttime walk mates whispering.

What are you currently reading? 
I am currently reading a superb book on the history of papermaking. Nerdy, yet hip.

What are you currently listening to?
Tom Waits

Happiness is?
Happiness is feeling like you are beating a system.

What does the future hold for you?
The future is grand and unknown. We are making a new show that involves a Giant puppet, with video projections. He’ll either be terrifying for kids, or hypnotically engaging.

Too impatient to make films, Jeff discovered puppetry as a visual language for live cartoon story-telling. He draws on a varied background in mime (Omnibus: Montreal), clown (Michel Dallaire: Hangar des Mines, France), mask (Rene Bazinet: Montreal) and puppetry.  

On stage, his productions have traveled the globe, with recent notable visits Off-Broadway (New York City), Soho Theatre (London West End) and across venues in Spain, Netherlands, Singapore, France, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, New Zealand, Australia and South Korea.

Jeff is currently appearing in Bunk Puppets’ production of Swamp Juice, presented by Monkey Baa Theatre Company at the Lendlease Darling Quarter Theatre until 21 January 2017. For more information, visit: www.monkeybaa.com.au for details.

Image: Jeff Achtem – photo by Andrew Wuttke