Poppy Seed Theatre Festival: Nurturing and championing tomorrow’s tall poppies

Poppy Seed Theatre Festival Attic Erratic Blessed - photo by Sarah WalkerRiding the successful wave of last year’s festivities, the second Poppy Seed Theatre Festival continues to provide a unique proposition to theatre makers by embracing the development of some of the best Melbourne-based independent artists to present the premiere of four ambitious new works over five weeks from 8 November – 11 December 2016.

“We are enormously proud to back the vision of the 2016 festival ensemble featuring a wonderfully diverse and exciting group, including Attic Erratic, Three Birds Theatre, Hotel Now and Riot Stage,” says Poppy Seed Theatre Festival co-director, Scott Major. “They are all tenacious, dedicated to their work, have enormous respect for each other and a solid commitment to the festival model.”

The selected new works featured in this year’s Poppy Seed Theatre Festival include: Blessed – Attic Erratic, LadyCake – Three Birds Theatre, What’s Yours Is Mine – Hotel Now, and F. – Riot Stage

In the current climate of uncertainty in the creative sector with limited funding opportunities, the Poppy Seed Theatre Festival stands as a beacon of hope for the future development of Melbourne’s independent theatre scene and fills the gap left by other similar projects that have recently left the Melbourne landscape.

More than just a presentation of theatre performances, the Poppy Seed Theatre Festival invests financially and artistically to nurture selected independent artists by providing support through mentoring, professional development, workshops and seminars in marketing and publicity, promotion, budgeting and touring.

“Poppy Seed Theatre Festival is ultimately about collaboration, building capacity and supporting Melbourne’s artistic future. We want to help create sustainability for artists in the industry and to contribute to the longevity of the creative sector,” said Major.

The 2016 Poppy Seed Theatre Festival works are:

World premiere: 8 – 20 November 2016
The Tower – The Coopers Malthouse
In a shitty flat sit two shitty people, shitty lives hanging out all over the place. A brutal, epic and incredibly human love story, Blessed follows two familiar strangers so entangled, dark and claustrophobic that nothing in this world could lift them out of their current situation. The second work in a trilogy of political plays that investigate religion and dogma, Blessed openly and candidly presents something that few people want to talk about: the anger, helplessness, fear and lack of control felt by those who were never really given a choice.

Director / Producer: Danny Delahunty Performers: Olivia Monticciolo, Matt Hickey Set / Properties Design: Luc Favre Lighting Design: Rob Sowinski Sound Design / Composition Tom Pitts Writer: Fleur Kilpatrick

World premiere: 15 – 27 November 2016
New Ballroom – Trades Hall
Marie Antoinette – teen icon, loving mother, draconian villain, murdered queen. How easy is it to tear a woman from her throne? LadyCake is a modern re-fashioning of the myths surrounding the infamous last queen of France – Marie Antoinette – who lived like a rock star against the backdrop of a blood-thirsty revolution. But ultimately, LadyCake is just a simple story about a girl. An electrifying and darkly witty piece that sees a flamboyant collision between 18th century France and the modern day, the play contends with the way speculation, gossip, assumption and physical criticism can cruelly undermine a woman. Three Birds Theatre dives into a colourful and captivating world of luxury, revolt and too much cake.

Creators / Performers: Candace Miles, Madelaine Nunn, Anna Rodway Costume Design: Lucy Wilkins Set Design: Anastasia Poppenberg Sound / Music Design: Liam Bellman-Sharpe Lighting Design: Jason Crick Production / Stage Manager: Amelia O’Brien

What’s Yours Is Mine
World premiere: 22 November – 4 December 2016
The Butterfly Club
Ripping at the seams of the Union Jack with perfectly manicured nails, What’s Yours Is Mine explores ownership and ‘Australian’ values with a high camp and indulgent aesthetic. Taking inspiration from Chekhov’s The Proposal, the play excavates excess through centuries of pop culture: Antiques Roadshow, Pauline Hanson, The Bachelor and Ken Done. The Australian dream in 2016 seems a little bit closer to a closet full of Gorman clogs than a hard working man in a pair of thongs. Established in 2013, Hotel Now is an emerging company with a reputation for immersive, challenging and gloriously entertaining works with a mission to leave an impact through an absurd lens.

Director: Yvonne Virsik Performers / Devisors: Hayden Burke, Simone French, Tom Halls Production Designer: Owen Phillips Stage Manager: Rikki-Lee Butinar Producer: Anastasia Ryan

30 November – 11 December 2016
New Ballroom – Trades Hall
 navigates how teenagers learn about sex and sexuality in 2016 through a dense and stimulating digital landscape – tinder, sexting, web-cams, instant gratification and online personas. Through a combination of anonymous online surveys, candid conversations and gutsy improvisations, Riot Stage worked with a group of 12 teenagers (15 – 19 year olds) to navigate the topics that have informed the creation of F. including porn, masturbation, consent, pubic hair, gender, kinks and the pressures of a media-saturated world. A fictionalised presentation grounded on very real issues, F. mirrors the internet – it’s an overload of information designed for short attention spans – where five minutes is way too long and content is repeated, adapted and transformed again and again.

Director: Katrina Cornwell Performers: Ross Daniels, Alanna Marshall, Sarah Conroy, Sunny Chiron, Taylor Seagal, Bonnie Brown, Todd Kingston, Izzy White, Jack Zapsalis, Thi Minh Chau (Blair) Phan, Ben van Rijn, Charlie Brown, Elise Louey Assistant Director: Amelia Newman Set / Costume Design: Yvette Turnbull Lighting Design: Matthew Adey Sound Design / Composer Raya Slavin Stage Manager: Kate Brennan Writer: Morgan Rose GSD Peer Advisor: Cecelia Devlin Producer: Anna Kennedy

The 2016 Poppy Seed Theatre Festival runs 8 November – 11 December 2016. A Festival Gala takes place at The Coopers Malthouse on Wednesday 9 November. Tickets are now on sale. For more information, visit: www.poppyseed.net.au for details.

Image: Attic Erratic presents Blessed – photo by Sarah Walker