On the Couch with Sue Giles

Sue GilesWho is Sue Giles?
I am the Artistic Director of Polyglot Theatre, making contemporary theatre and live art works for children, with children, all over the world. I am a very energetic person who has a gorgeous husband of 30 years and two very talented, actively engaged children – all in the arts as well. I’m going grey, with style. I have a blue house, a dog, a cat, 7 chooks and 50,000 bees.

I am passionate about theatre for young audiences and have just been elected to the global organisation, ASSITEJ, to work for the betterment of the sector and the rights of children to cultural engagement. I played soccer for 11 years and have the knee reconstruction to prove it.

What would you do differently to what you do now?
I have the best job in the world. I can’t imagine doing anything else; except now and then, when the hoops you have to jump through to make art in the small to medium sector multiply and get smaller and higher – then I think I might need to retrain as a contortionist.

Who inspires you and why?
I had to leave this until last because it’s the hardest to pin down what causes that stir in your soul. Every Welcome to Country makes me stand straighter. Ken Robinson did with his now famous ted talk on creativity; that was a fresh air moment. Kids do, every time I start a new work and get taken artistically to a place I’ve never been. Art does – the Rothco room at the Tate Modern. Anyone with the guts to stand up and say something to right a wrong. All the independent artists I know, doing what they do with all the power, determination, cheek, danger and humour they can muster.

What would you do to make a difference in the world?
Have conversations. Listen and pay attention. Take risks. Say hello to a stranger.

Favourite holiday destination and why?
I get to go to interesting places because of work, so holidays don’t really get a look in. So much nicer to be working alongside locals and find out from within what a place is all about. Actually now that I think about it, the best ‘holiday’ we’ve been on is a weekend down at Freshwater Creek, with the dog and the kids, camping on a friends farm, cooking on a fire, playing music and one-word charades by the light of a torch, drinking red wine and waking to the baa of distant sheep.

When friends come to town, what attraction would you take then to, and why?  
Sydney Road. Northside’s where it’s at man. Sydney Road has a glorious mix of shabby and hip, brilliant food, multicultural awesomeness, and secret shopping destinations. Then I reckon I’d take them to a really interesting piece of theatre, perhaps a Last Tuesday Society, or a warehouse show, or a band in a funny venue on High street – show them what’s happening away from the big streets.

What are you currently reading?
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, for the millionth time. I read and re-read novels and read fast so I’ve also just finished Morality Play by Barry Unsworth and a really great kids book called The Dragonfly Pool that I got in an op shop in Belfast and which made me, suddenly, cry. And for non-fiction I’m flipping through an excellent book called Trespass – a history of uncommissioned urban art – which has its cover deliberately on upside down. Ha.

What are you currently listening to?
Apart from the hilarious chaos of twenty or so lorrikeets in the gum tree outside my house every morning? At this very moment, if I’m being totally honest, Fahrenheit byToto on vinyl. Now that the kids have left home, the listening isn’t nearly so various; time was when I’d hear a new band every day. However, RRR saves the day over and over.

Happiness is?
…prone to hijack you at the oddest times. Or am I thinking Joy?

What does the future hold for you?
Next week? – a big Polyglot project called Drawbridge, with Indonesian company Papermoon, comic book artist Mandy Ord and the kids at Vic College for the Deaf – look out for it at Fed Square during the holidays! The next three years? – I know I’ll be on a big adventure with ASSITEJ, an international organisation that knows what the Arts bring to the world; addresses inequities and challenges assumptions; keeps children and young people in the spotlight so that change can happen from the earliest age, for the earliest age and ever onwards; brings people together from all walks of life in ways that foster creativity, connection and powerful shared experience. Any more than that?: Who can plan that far ahead? Bring it on!

Sue Giles was appointed Artistic Director of Polyglot Theatre in 2000. Sue’s unique child-centred creative processes have been the subject of masterclasses, forums and discussions nationally and internationally (including key industry events in Sweden, London, Singapore and USA). Her works have been performed in ten countries on five continents in five different languages, and have been presented by Australia’s major festivals (including Melbourne, Sydney and Darwin Festivals) and the world’s leading arts centres.

Her iconic conceptual work We Built This City has toured continually for ten years including to the Melbourne International Arts Festival, Kennedy Center Washington, Act3 Festival Singapore and through England, Ireland and Scotland, to Taiwan, Okinawa, USA and Korea.  Other conceptual works Tangle and Sticky Maze, are also touring world wide after Sydney Festival, Singapore Arts Festival and Out Of The Box Festival in Brisbane.

In 2003, she was the Australian representative at the International Director’s Forum hosted by ASSITEJ Germany.  In 2004 she was the Victorian Representative on the National Board of YPAA (Young People and the Arts, Australia) and from 2008-9 she was on the steering committee of the national puppetry organisation UNIMA.  In 2009, Sue was the Puppetry Director of the Australian production of the Broadway musical, Avenue Q. In 2011 Sue was one of a panel of leading Australian arts organisations for the ASSITEJ International Children’s Theatre Festival and Congress, and has just been elected onto the Executive Committee for ASSITEJ.

Polyglot’s Drawbridge will take place at the Deakin Edge at Melbourne’s Federation Square from 6 – 11 July. For more information, visit: www.polyglot.org.au or www.fedsquare.com for details.

Image: Sue Giles