The fabulous Olivia Porter and Jarred Dewey (Poached Eggs and Asparagus) have created a new show Party Ghost and are performing it at Circus Oz‘s mini-festival of experimental circus in Melbourne – Sidesault At The Melba from the 15th – 18th Nov. BUY TIX HERE.
Olivia and Jarred are two of my favourite performers, they have the type of energy onstage which makes you not able to take your eyes off them. They are super talented and their aesthetic and style is right up my alley. They are also two humble, lovely humans who love a quiet G & T……….well Porter does.
This extremely candid interview gets under their skin and into their slightly bent minds and gives you an insight into how they became friends, phobias, their creative process, what attracts them to the macabre and working with the creative powerhouse that is Nicci Wilkes – if you don’t know of Nicci google her, she’s incredible and needs a whole feature in this mag – eh Wilksy!?
I hope you enjoy!
How did you guys become friends?
Olivia – Snickers. Twin Peaks. Breakfast.
Jarred and I had known each other a long time. We had met at my first Tasmanian Circus festival (2009) when I was just a circus seedling. Jarred was still at NICA at the time. I don’t think we exchanged many words but we had a deep understanding of one another where these interactions were not necessary. lol. In reality, we had met there, then he joined Circa not long after that, so socially, I guess we mostly bumped into each other around the Brisbane scene. We always greeted with a kiss on the cheek and were definitely interested in the happenings of each other’s lives, but really in actual fact, we didn’t really know each other that well until late last year when we both got asked to do a London season with La Soiree. Jarred had Facebooked me asking if we could live together. I was stoked. Luckily we sent this request. As our lives changed forever… (so dramatic)…but it was kinda true.
We got to stay at a rad little apartment in Soho for 2 and a half months. When I first arrived, I rocked up 8 hours after the time I was meant to be there. And Jarred, being the loveable angel he is greeted the stressed/ traumatised me (had a very fucked up trip) with love and support. We ate Thai and had a beer and chatted- weirdly falling upon a discussion of our childhood phobias. Which were weirdly very similar. We both had this disabling fear that our families would run away from us while we were sleeping (hope you don’t mind me sharing Jarred) Jarred had some good tactics (drawing maps, sleeping at his parents bedroom door), Whereas I just didn’t sleep for a couple of years and stressed out every time the sun set. We also shared a severe vomiting phobia (I still haven’t vomited since I was 14!) So really, we bonded over childhood phobias.
How did the show come about?
Jarred – While on tour with Circus Oz, Olivia and I decided we wanted to make a show together. During the tour people regularly told us that we worked well together on stage. It just seemed natural we would make a show together.And Olivia is my muse! But really, we have great social and creative chemistry on the floor.
Olivia – We had definitely discussed over the time in Soiree of making an act together- but you know how it goes- sometimes you can love one another’s work and have great ideas but once you hit the floor it sometimes just doesn’t meld. But we discovered working in Circus Oz together it was very easy, fun and fruitful to work together on and off stage. So during that time, it became very visible that we were a good combo and an act idea very quickly became a show idea. We applied to doing Woodford folk festival, as we thought this would be a great platform and environment to showcase work and quickly threw together some ideas and concepts to apply. Unfortunately, we weren’t successful (due to our disorganisation mostly), but the Sidesault project fell into our laps by chance. So post our last season with Circus Oz in China we built a very short timeline and plan to make this show we will be presenting (insert stressed emoji here). I have spent the last two months in the states and Jarred has been busy too. So literally we have had a total of two and a half weeks to make this show!
How would you describe Ghost Party?
Jarred – I would describe it as camp, stupid, dark and twisted. We play with the themes of death and the afterlife spliced together with celebration and birthday parties. It has elements of clown, slapstick, circus and a little bit of drag.
Olivia – I really don’t know. It’s twisted, its stupid, its fun.
What are the themes you are playing with?
Jarred – The afterlife and birthday parties. We also borrow from a lot of cult cinema which is subtly referenced throughout the show.
Olivia – We are playing with themes around Death, Dying and the Afterlife. It was kind of an accident, how we came together with the concept, as it just fell into place. I was always interested in how western society deals with subject death and dying. Its kind of taboo, although it happens to all of us and our loved ones. But whether you are on the receiving end or supporting someone through it, it really is like sifting through the dark (no pun intended) Anyway, I wanted to make a show that was dark and silly but really celebrated the idea of death. Where you can laugh (and cry) at it. I made a short 15-minute show in 2016 around this concept, which I performed 56 times over a 2 week period in the Little Palais (Bamboozled Productions) in Adelaide Fringe. It was about a ghost who (in its former life) was a bingo host.I hadn’t had a chance to perform it again since then but was dying to bring it back to life (pun intended). Jarred had a bunch of concepts and some drag acts around a messed up birthday party. So naturally, the idea of a “party’ and a ‘death’ worked neatly into one another, while silly references to horror films and other pop references, to make our totally silly show “Party Ghost”. Although the themes might seem heavy and intense, the show is absolutely the opposite, completely ridiculous, completely fun and hopefully loveable!
What draws you to the macabre and twisted?
What has your typical day/creative session looked like?
Jarred – It’s a relatively organic process. We stroll in around 10 am, appropriately caffeinated and then do a haphazard warm up and throw some ideas around which usually transforms into making a scene. Once Nicci (Wilks) came on board as outside eye, we really started to investigate the order and flow of the show more rigorously. We have been less focused on the circus side of the show (eg our solos) and more focused on the comedy and choreographic elements of the show.
Olivia – It has been such a whirlwind creating this show as we only had very limited time but I think that’s the best way to roll most of the time. There were so many different avenues we could have taken this show, but we didn’t have time to ponder those options so we went with the ones that worked and pulled it together the best we can.
This is hailed as ‘a festival of experimental circus’. Does that mean you’ve been able to create the show you really want to make? (Make whatever the F*ck you want?)
Jarred – The festival has been amazing thus far. We have a budget, space, venue, assistance and so the producing pressures have been lifted and we can focus on making the art. The term “experimental” has really given us full licence to make the kind of show we want to make. It contextualises for us and the audience, that the shows are new, risky and not necessarily made with the market in mind.
Olivia – It is so great but let us wait and see “if make whatever the f*ck you want” is a blessing or a curse. There have definitely been several moments on the floor where we have questioned whether what we are doing is actually entertaining to others, or just us. The response from one of us is… “its an experiment!”
You have Nicci Wilks (WE3!, Circus Oz, MTC, KAGE – The list goes on…) on as an ‘outside eye’ – can you talk about the importance of this role and having someone you trust giving you feedback?
Jarred – This is my first time working with and getting to know Nicci properly and it’s love at first sight (maybe only from my point of view). I grew up having seen her on stage and have followed her career. When Olivia suggested her as outside eye, I had no hesitations because Wilks’ work is amazing and I hold Olivia’s opinion in such high regard. Having Nicci act as outside eye has been instrumental in helping us translate our crazy ideas into something the audience can follow. I feel like Nicci is a perfect fit for us, she just immediately understood the kind of crazy f*cked up show we wanted to make and ran with it. I’m actually not sure what we would have done without her.
Olivia – OMG! I just cannot say enough how blessed we are to have Nicci on board with this creation, having her on the floor with us has been a godsend. I have to say, even though she will probably kill me for saying it, we absolutely feel that Nicci is far more than an outside eye. Of course, the concepts are originally ours, but she has such amazing knowledge and such a great eye as a director and collaborator. This has absolutely been a collaboration between the three of us. This show is definitely 100 times more with having Wilksy in the room. Nicci knows what our vision is, which is very important in this collaboration, we absolutely trust her and in hand has allowed her to push us to play with elements outside our usual performing styles. She will also tell us if it’s not working or its just no good. Which is just so reassuring in this process. AND she has just been so generous with her time and help. Nicci is the best. Ergh, I’ll just keep gushing, I better stop now.
What do you love about the show and working together?
Jarred – Corny as hell but… I love how much we laugh together in the studio. We literally laugh so much we nearly pee our pants. Here’s hoping the audience will find it this funny as we do.
Olivia – Wholly molly. The one thing I can say about this project so far is that even if the show is a complete failure, I have had the best time making it. I have not hysterically laughed to actually the point of almost peeing my pants for a very very long time. Probably since the first time I smoked weed.
I love the absurdity, the ridiculousness, the laughter, the concept, the confusion, the weird little bubble we have created so far on the floor. The three of us in the rehearsal room is something to be reckoned with. It’s totally f*cked. In all the right ways.
What are your hopes for the show?
What positives do you feel the Australian scene has as artists making work here?
Jarred – There is an enormous community here. Diverse in style, profile and political. There are great spaces for circus and circus rehearsal, an educated audience and a supportive troupe of carnies who are always happy to help. This project has really shown me the generosity of my colleagues and friends. It’s been really heartwarming.
Olivia – Our community. By far. The experience of growing up in the Brisbane Circus community where I felt so supported and encouraged. I think back to those early days training at the Brisbane Powerhouse with so much inspiration around me (Davy Samfpord, Kellie Vella, Tiger Lil, Mark Winmill, Fez Fananna, Amanda Pearson, Lisa Fa’alafi, Natano, Neridah Waters, Allie Wilde, Nick Cilento, Jesse Scott, Chelsea McGuffin, Bec Jones, Celia white, Michelle Grant-Iramu, Helen Clifford, Dave Carberry, Mali De’Goey, Rudi Minuer, Frans Vogels, Chae Lindeman, all the incredible Vulcana Womens Circus, Flipside, Polytoxic, Rock’n’Roll Circus then Circa, Company 2, Casus, The Ice Cream Factory… my list could go on, but they were really the people that informed my work, inspired and encouraged me as a performer. Then the festivals in Tassie, Adelaide, Mullum where the community just grew and grew and grew. Those initial opportunities that were given to me as a budding performer allowed me to develop on all different types of stages. I don’t have the knowledge to compare to other countries but I absolutely feel there is something very special in our Circus community here in Australia.
You’ve been in Circus Oz (big company) La Soirée (doing the same tight act) and been in smaller & medium companies can you talk on the pros and cons of each as a ‘jobbing’ performer?
Jarred – I’ve worked extensively with Circa (6 years), a season with La Soiree (9 weeks) and almost a year with Circus Oz and I’ve learned so much from each. I’m so lucky to have been employed for such long periods because it meant I have had a lot of time on stage performing, honing my craft as a performer in different contexts and being able to interrogate the style of work completely. Having been a company performer for basically my whole professional career thus far means that I have not made my own work for almost 7 years and so beginning this development was a tad overwhelming because I wasn’t sure how I would function without a director. Total identity crisis! But as I mentioned before, it has been very organic.
As individual artists what are your hopes (or aims) with your creative practice? Where do you want to be in 5 years?
Jarred – I haven’t really given it much thought yet, mainly because I’ve been so consumed by this project. I would love to do another redevelopment of the show and collaborate with a team of sound, costume and lighting designers to really take the show to the next level. I would love to continue working with Olivia and making more works with different artists. I’ll have a proper think and I’ll get back to you.
Olivia – Performing Party Ghost. Or similar. And making some dollars
What is the ultimate scenario for each of you?
Jarred – First to make a killer show and then world domination.
Olivia – Right now, I feel exhausted and completely delirious but, I feel all this exhaustion from the work we have put into this show has been the most satisfying exhaustion I have ever felt. I would have been happy to not have slept a wink for this show. Anyway, what I am trying to say in a very roundabout way… Creating this show, this kind of work is my ultimate. Its been a learning curve working for companies and fitting into other visions, or styles of shows. Which has been so much fun, extremely rewarding and I have taken so much from those experiences and would continue to do them. But this experience of making party ghost thus far has absolutely confirmed that drive of creating independent work that is a wonderful collaboration of minds that have the same vision. Its sparked a confidence I felt that I have lacked. My previous experiences have come into play, that knowledge and understanding of what it takes to make a show, stagecraft, play, discipline etc. But making work that is my vision and my drive is very rewarding, fun and pushes me to want to keep driving that creativity and work on stage.
What advice would you both give to performers just entering the scene?
Jarred – I would encourage anyone entering the scene to remain open to all styles of performance, work hard, soak up any little bit of advice you can, be constructively critical but respectful and enjoy the awesome community you’re apart of.
Olivia – Trust your gut. Work and play hard. Believe in what you do. And above all, enjoy it.
What advice would you give the younger versions of yourselves knowing what you do now?
Jarred – Do Pilates.
Olivia – Don’t take up smoking. Idiot.
So by the sounds of it folks (those lucky enough to be in Melbourne!), you only have this opportunity to see Ghost Party so GET YOUR TIX HERE.
Thank you both so much for your time answering all my questions and being so candid.
I’m gutted I can’t see it in the flesh,
Peace & respect to all,
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Sidesault At The Melba
‘Showcasing emerging and established circus artists in the mirrored splendour of The Melba Spiegeltent. The Festival will present works that challenge and push the contemporary circus artform across a range of disciplines from sideshow stunts to adrenalin charged acrobatics, and styles and approaches ranging from feminist to freakshow. Raw and unexpected, this is an opportunity to experience work at the forefront of the circus arts’ – Circus Oz Website