"The Cocoon explores different aspects of romantic relationships presented in a series of vignettes. There is a couple breaking up, a young gay pair falling in love, a woman reliving her unrequited love and a man rediscovering his love for his partner after their gender reassignment operation," the show's writer and director Kotryna Gesait tells me. "The idea of a "cocoon" is what binds them together, both in a claustrophobic sense and also as a site of metamorphosis and change.
With webbed caverns creating an ethereal environment, audience members are given free access to wonder around and follow whichever story takes their interest for however long they wish. "The design is being conceived by Chantal Marks, a local architect with a set design background. We have a cozy space in Brunswick which we are transforming into the inside of a cocoon," Gesait says. "The idea being that these hyper realistic scenes and monologues will be directly juxtaposed by the other-wordly and dreamlike setting of a cocoon, a space that the audience and the performers closely share. The effect will be intimate, and admittedly maybe a little uncomfortable but I also believe it will have a familiarity for the audience."
"Immersive theatre is the next step in the theatre scene. I've always found it to be exciting and more accessible to people who wouldn't call themselves theatre-goers," she tells me. "It taps into the sense of childlike play that is in all of us, and brings us back to the times we built forts in our bedrooms and played pretend with our friends. I love work that can access the children in adults."
Gesait is also upping the ante with The Cocoon by allowing audiences the chance to speak to the performers regarding their thoughts and feelings at that moment in time. To prepare for this, much of the rehearsal process has focused on the actors exploring their character beyond the story we are watching.
"The rehearsals have been interesting so far as we've explored finding a balance with the specificity I strive for with the actors, while also giving them the freedom and confidence to talk to the audience. The way I am approaching it now is to make sure they are completely confident in their actions, motivations and desires within their circumstances so when the audience comes in and starts questioning or supporting them, they will be grounded enough in their beliefs and characters to respond."
"In Shakespeare's time the groundlings were part of the audience but also expressive of their thoughts and I think that is why theatre was so mainstream. I want to encourage that sort of theatre viewing, one that captures people in a different, more visceral, non-intellectual way," Gesait says. "I believe theatre, especially honest theatre, can be divisive at its best. The audience naturally wants to take sides, express themselves and throw support where they think support is due. Theatre - particularly interactive theatre - can grab their hearts and souls and illicit responses that are a complete surprise."
Five Quick Ones
Art is honesty.
The best live show I've seen is Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem with Mark Rylance.
The best advice I was ever given is "be bold."
A food I can't live without is AVOCADOS!
Venue: The Portable, 3 Dawson St, Brunswick, 3056.
Season: 15 - 30 September | Wed - Sun 9:00pm
Length: 70 minutes
Tickets: $32 Full | $27 Conc/ | $25 Group 6+
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival