On the Couch with Penny Harpham

Penny Harpham Arts Review On the CouchWho is Penny Harpham?
I’m a theatre maker based in Melbourne working across projects and companies, and the co-founder and co-Artistic Director of indie theatre ensemble, She Said Theatre.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
How long have you got? Call my family more, let’s start with that.

Who inspires you and why?
At the risk of a this becoming a very long list: Rachael Maza, Jenny Kemp, Susie Dee, Patricia Cornelius, Adena Jacobs, Tammy Anderson, The Rabble, Leah Purcell, Candy Bowers, Maria Randell, Jamie Lewis, Zoey Dawson, Carly Switzerland, Rani Pramesti, Emily Tomlins, Clare Watson, Pauline Whyman, Liz Jones, Susan Doel, Sue Giles, Nakkiah Lui, Van Badham, Maurial Spearim, Alyson Campbell, Morgan Rose, Katrina Cornwell, Prue Clarke, Emma Hall, Clementine Ford, Raya Slavin, Chloe Greaves, Katie Sfetkidis, Anna Kennedy and Seanna van Helten.

These women (and of course many others) are unapologetic in the work they make, which drills down into the Australian society we are living in today and how the rules that we are operating under effects those who have been traditionally overlooked or spoken for on our stages and across our public spaces: Indigenous women, migrant communities, people of colour, the LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, people with mental illness, children and women.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?

Favourite holiday destination and why?
My home. I was raised in a small rural Qld town and at the age of 12 was sent to boarding school, so for most of my life ‘home’ has been a holiday destination rather than a weekly base. It now takes me two days to drive home from Melbourne, and I only get there once a year or so but I dream of the space, the sunsets, the rivers, the sounds, the pace, my pets, my family and the community all year round.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take them to, and why?
In Melbourne do you mean? In Melbourne, I would take them to Curtain House on Swanston Street. It’s 6 levels with a rooftop bar at the very top. I work for the family who own two of the venues in the building – Cookie and The Toff in Town – and they are legends who look after their staff extremely well. So I know when I have friends in town, that if I take them to Cookie and Toff, we are going to be treated like rockstars and have a night that seems to last forever.

What are you currently reading?
Fight Like A Girl by Clementine Ford, Mary of Maranoa by Eve Pownall, A Director Prepares by Anne Bogart (I feel so daggy writing that!) and Seanna van Hetlen’s Fallen, over and over and over again.

What are you currently listening to?
Music from female composers in the nineteenth century courtesy of my amazing friend and She Said Theatre sound designer and composer, Raya Slavin. Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann in particular. Also heaps of Decoder Ring and a healthy dash of Solange.

Happiness is?
Being in water.

What does the future hold for you?

Presented by Sport for Jove Theatre Company & She Said Theatre, Penny is directing Seanna van Helten’s Fallen at the Seymour Centre: 6 – 22 April 2017. For more information, visit: www.shesaidtheatre.com or www.seymourcentre.com for details.

Image: Penny Harpham (supplied)