On the Couch with Neptune Henriksen

Neptune Henriksen AAR On the CouchWho is Neptune Henriksen?
I’m a queer theatre-maker and writer, returning to live performance after a few years in my “trans cacoon”. Definitely “coming out of my [caccon], and I’ve been [preparing to perform]”, because my 2024 tour, which so far includes Midsumma Festival, Adelaide Fringe, and Melbourne Comedy Festival, is my first time on the Australian circuit since 2016.

During my time away from the stage, I threw myself into prose writing, publishing a flash fiction collection (Daydreamings: A Collection of Connections), and a novella trilogy (Queer Summer Trilogy), and into directing and one-on-one workshops. That time focusing on prose really allowed me to hone my ability to convey genuinely truthful moments.

My debut play, Long Drive Together, which is part of Midsumma Festival, is my most truthful work, as it delves into the genuine experience of losing a friend to suicide as a teenager. The grief that sticks around these many years later, but so does the rich connection that’s possible in among that loss and pain.

What would you do differently from what you do now?
It would also be amazing to actually reach every person that would want to see my work. Not just in terms of advertising and marketing, but also in terms of access.

Coming to watch a play in person can be such a big hurdle for fellow disabled folks, fellow mentally ill folks, and/or people experiencing financial hardship, and a part of me wishes I could go perform my works in people’s houses, for free, so they could definitely see it.

But even finding those folks, who had those access obstacles and were interested in my work, would be a task itself. And I also have to reckon with the reality of having to pay my rent and bills, so it’s not possible at this time.

Who inspires you and why?
It’s a real patchwork for me. I’d say my performing style is an attempt to be as honest on stage as I want to be in real life. My writing, on the other hand, is completely influenced by American rock band, Fall Out Boy, and Pete Wentz’s near-grotesque language of desire, because what is a character motivation but a desire?

And I’m also obsessed with having dialogue come through as “real talk” (having characters speak the way real people do), so I’m more interested in eavesdropping real conversations than taking inspiration from a theatre-maker and screen writer.

And last but not least, my directing style is mostly inspired by therapy. That is to say, getting out of the head and into the body – bringing in Somatic Exercises, ensuring that emotions are conveyed physically rather than through “The Method” and approaching the creative process as a place for experiments. It’s also why physicality is such a strong element of all my live works.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
My biggest dream is to teach more, when I’m more knowledgeable and have completely honed my teaching craft. Right now, I run one-on-one workshops and direct solo performers, which I absolutely love. And in an ideal world, I would run a multi-week crash course in theatre, storytelling, physicality, and comedy, either at a university, or in my own studio. I think one of the most healing things in this world, is turning harrowing pain into art. Not just because that process itself is helpful, but because knowing that something difficult, can be translated into art is a comfort, in and of, itself.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
My Morfar (mother’s father) is Norwegian, and I’ve only been a few times, but it feels so right whenever I’ve been. As though something in my soul is finally settling. I also grew up in Oberon, a small town in NSW, that snowed in the Winter, so I’m such a Winter Baby. Nothing makes me feel more at peace with my body than laying in a snow drift, and long, dark, peaceful nights. It’s the perfect place to slow down.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
Probably just my apartment. I’m a real homebody, and enjoy hosting (as stated on my Grindr profile). But that might be because right now, my co-star Lou Sebial and I, are rehearsing Long Drive Together at my apartment twice a week, and we often end rehearsals with dinner and a movie, so that’s my idea of a great time. We just finished the Twilight movies, which I’d never seen, and I was obsessed with all five – incredibly campy.

What are you currently reading?
I’m reading Porn: An Oral History by Polly Barton. It’s transcribed interviews of a number of people, across gender and sexuality lines, discussing their relationships to porn, sex, desire, and taboo. If I’m honest, I thought it would be a bit more fun, but it’s a lot of people discussing how the sex they enjoy, isn’t the sex they’re having, which makes me deeply sad. I know not everyone likes sex (shout out to the Asexuals out there), but these people were allosexual, so it does hang heavy in my soul. I think our bodies are to be enjoyed – sex, food, movement, laughter, rest. Our bodies, and the pleasure they have to offer us, is the meaning of life, as far as I’m concerned.

What are you currently listening to?
As I type this, I’m listening to my Fuck Playlist – because I had a FWB come over earlier, so I’m still bumping the playlist. But I’m either listening to a playlist I’ve made for a project, such as my play, Long Drive Together, or my novellas in the Queer Summer Trilogy, or I’m listening to American rock band, Fall Out Boy. They’ve been my favourite band since From Under The Cork Tree (about 2005), and I’ll often just go through their discography in full, especially doing emails or writing. Folie A Deux and MANIA are probably my favourite of their albums.

Happiness is?
A day out with my friend (and current co-star) Lou Sebial. They’re honestly the best friend I’ve ever had. And last year, we had such a fun day where we went to see Saw X, and then went to a Taylor Swift dance party, that was one of the best days of my life. We’ve also gone ice skating, axe-throwing, and out to watch live theatre, and it’s always a good time if I’m going with them. I love them so much.

What does the future hold for you?
More performing – Adelaide Fringe and Melbourne Comedy Festival so far. Lou and I will be taking Long Drive Together AND my solo comedy Being A Woman For Money to Adelaide, and I’ll be bringing Being A Woman For Money to Melbourne for Comedy Festival. And more writing too, I’m planning to release two prose works in 2024 – one in September (a collection), one in December (my debut novel). And hopefully more directing and workshops. I love working with other performers, it’s like being a professional problem solver, I look over their process and in the most supportive way possible, ask “damn babe, you live like this?… because you don’t have to anymore!”

Neptune is the writer of, and performer in Long Drive Together – which will be presented at The Butterfly Club, as part of the 2024 Midsumma Festival, from 5 – 10 February. For more information, visit: www.midsumma.org.au for details.

Image: Neptune Henriksen (supplied)