One of the myriad of shows being performed at The Butterfly Club this Melbourne Fringe Festival, Awesome Ocean Party is one show you would be mad to miss. Created and performed by Giema Contini, it incorporates song, storytelling and an ocean themed birthday party that won over audiences at The Anywhere Theatre Festival in Brisbane last year. Now it's Melbourne turn to witness the magic and charm.
"The concept for Awesome Ocean Party was originally something completely different. In 2012 I had an idea for a solo show called: Broken Heart Syndrome. I was fascinated by the fact that Broken Heart Syndrome is an actual scientific condition where people can literally die from a broken heart," Contini explains. "I quickly discovered that the medical name for BHS is: takotsubo cardiomyopathy, which translates to: octopus-trap heart disease. The condition was first discovered by a Japanese cardiovascular specialist and it was called takostubo cardiomyopathy because there is a reflex in the heart that balloons out to the shape of an octopus trap when Broken Heart Syndrome occurs. This piece of information lead me down an amazing path involving octopuses (did you know they have three hearts??), Hawaiian creation myths, broken hearts and birthdays."
Contini has teamed up with Nathan Stoneham to create the original music that is played throughout the show. For Contini, it was a very simple choice in getting Stoneham to jump on board with her. "Nathan is basically a dream collaborator. From the beginning I knew I wanted the work to have original music in the show. Nathan was my first choice to be my composer and collaborator as I have always respected him as an artist and human. We first worked together in 2008 on a production called: Bin, Cement, Flower, Leaves which was based on how children with autism experience the world. From that project onwards we have been close friends. Nathan's work co-writing Underground with Jeremy Neideck contained a magical, love-filled quality that I wanted to harness in my show too.”
Having also studied at improvisation school The Second City in Chicago and under the watchful eye of the mind-boggingly hilarious Dr. Brown, I was curious as to how much impro and clowning is involved in Contini’s show. "There is an impro element as my character is responsive to each different group of party guests. The show isn’t ‘interactive’ in its pure sense, but the audience certainly do play an active role in certain parts of the show which allow me to respond uniquely every night," she explains. "The training I did with Dr Brown (he really is so ridiculously hilarious!) absolutely allowed me to find the clown of the character too, to be playful and silly. So while it’s neither strictly an impro or a clowning show it definitely has elements of both."
Given the whimsical and dreamlike nature of the show, it is no accident that Contini had her heart (all three of them) set on performing the show at The Butterfly Club. "I actually debuted the show in Brisbane inside an empty kiddy pool at The Musgrave Park Pool. I performed in the pool and the audience sat around the edges with their feet in the imaginary water. I turned the pool and its surrounds into a performance space, party and bar which was a massive undertaking but was a magic location for the show," she recalls.
"Doing the show again this time round, I wasn’t attached to the concept of the pool and actually wanted to test how the show would go inside an actual performance venue. I’m keen to discover how it changes the feeling for both me as performer and the audience enrolled as guests to the party. The Butterfly Club was my first choice of performance venue, both for it’s quirkiness and it’s reputation for presenting unique work. I feel like entering The Butterfly Club is like begin transported into another world and it’s just the kind of strange place Awesome Ocean Party would happen. To be honest, I can’t imagine having done it anywhere else for this next incarnation."
While Contini looks forward to audiences joining her for her awesome ocean party, she's hoping that they'll also take time to reflect on the show's purpose. "I want the audience (or more affectionately, the party guests) walk away from Awesome Ocean Party feeling connected. Connected to themselves as well as to others. To a sense of hope and love and tenderness and fun and silliness. To all the things that make us human."
If you had to name your child after a vegetable what would it be?
Which reality TV show would you most like to appear/compete on?
The most irritating habit I have is staring at people I love with “love eyes”. Which involves lots of direct eye contact and deep breathing. Apparently it can be quite off-putting.
What's a song that sums up your life?
"The 59th St Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy)" by Simon & Garfunkle
During Fringe, I really, really, really want to have a bloody fun time!! See lots of shows and share Awesome Ocean Party with as many people as possible!!
Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: 20 - 25 September | Tues - Sun 5.30pm
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $32 Full | $28 Conc | $22 Group 6+ and Preview
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival