Arts Centre Melbourne’s Fairfax Studio will be transformed into an intergalactic stratosphere this January as Australian cabaret icon Sarah Ward, the artist behind Yana Alana, brings her latest stage creation The Legend of Queen Kong Episode II: Queen Kong in Outer Space to life.
With complete disregard for conventional chronology, the narrative starts in the middle and is part of a greater trilogy called The Legend of Queen Kong – a ridiculously silly rock show. Prodigal protagonist Queen Kong – part rock, part ape, immortal being – has been imprisoned by humans for being too large. She calls on a passing meteorite and breaks free, embarking on a journey of transmutations and bi-curious encounters through time and space.
It has taken Sarah Ward, Bec Matthews and the creative team five years to realise this work. From concept through to jam sessions, writes and rewrites, gigs, its premiere earlier this year at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival to its present incarnation, Ward finally felt that she could move away from Yana Alana and step into a different character.
“Creating rock god Queen Kong and moving away from Yana Alana meant I could play with heart, animal and grit, and move away from narcissism and diva,” said Ward.
Ward’s inspiration to create boundary defying work stems from her childhood, where the love of mythological movies like Clash of the Titans and Star Wars enabled her to explore greater meaning through thematic storylines.
“This is at the core of all my work: to create art that has something to say. The themes of this work in its entirety are about the fragility and responsibility of being human, the absurdity of religious beliefs and the patriarchy. It’s a plea for change; a protest, a manifesto,” she added.
This inclusive new work is backed by all-queer, all-gender-diverse rock band The HOMOsapiens featuring Gen Bernstein, Jo Franklin, Cerise Howard and band leader Bec Matthews. “Our gender-diverse band has been endlessly supportive and bring their skill, patience and politics with style. We simply would not be able to do this without their commitment,” said Ward.
As this work has been developed with inclusivity in mind, it features deaf performer Asphyxia and Auslan interpreter Kirri Dangerfield. Incorporating Asphyxia into the video art meant Ward was able to invite a more diverse audience into the theatre to experience the work.
“How could we create a show about the human experience and only have the work accessible to hearing people? We’ve been learning Auslan and are passionate about learning a new language that enables us to speak to a wider audience. The relaxed performance on the Saturday makes our work accessible to an even wider audience,” she added.
Sarah Ward has been working tirelessly on this powerhouse performance project with director Susie Dee, dramaturg Anni Davey, visual projections style icon Will Huxley and animator Finn Scholes. It will be a space-fiction rock-concert of meteoric proportions including a special guest appearance by Yana Alana herself.
Sarah Ward is a cabaret artist, actor and writer. Creator of cabaret character Yana Alana and Queen Kong, Sarah has been awarded a Helpmann Award and alongside her creative team, has 11 Green Room Awards, an Adelaide Fringe Award and a Melbourne Fringe Award for cabaret. Sarah’s passion is in the creation of subversive, political work that challenges gender stereotypes and the status quo through her larger than life stage creations.
The Legend of Queen Kong Episode II: Queen Kong in Outer Space
Fairfax Studio – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 16 – 20 January 2019
Information and Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au
Image: Sarah Ward as Queen Kong (supplied)