Monday, 20 August 2018

Never Ending Night - Melbourne Fringe Festival preview

Fringe festivals are a time for artists to present new work and ideas and be daring in the theatre that they make. But it also gives a chance for audiences to experience innovative theatre and to step outside of their comfort zone as a passive audience member. Presented by Libby Brockman and Russell Sims as part of this year's Melbourne Fringe Festival, Never Ending Night is an immersive experience in which each audience member determines the journey that they will take.

Performed inside the Collingwood Underground Carpark, audiences enter Cyprus Pod, which has been home to a small community of survivors for 15 years. However, when 8 more newcomers arrive, the survivors must decide if they will accept them or turn them away. For this project, Brockman enlisted three writers, Bridgette Burton, Amelia Newman and Keith Gow, to come on board and help create and guide the story.

"The collaborative process was really exciting, since all our writing styles are quite different," Gow tells me. "I'm working with Bridgette, whose work I have admired for years, and Amelia, who Bridgette has been mentoring, and we established a general concept for the play and then went off and wrote three different stories about life in this one pod. The big question of the play is whether or not this pod of survivors will allow others to come and live with them; they are so comfortable in their lives, they are initially reticent to accept newcomers."

Immersive theatre aims to place audience members inside a piece, inviting them to join the world that is being presented rather than viewing it as an outsider. However, to do this successfully, there are two factors Gow believes must be present in order for immersive theatre to succeed. "While it can be a lot of different things, I think the two key things for me are: it is performed in a non-traditional space for theatre and the production ensures each audience member has their own unique experience. That means not everyone will see the same thing and not everyone will be able to see everything," he says. "Writing for an immersive experience was definitely a challenge, having to keep in mind that the experience overrides the story in many ways. It's better that the audience feels like they are going through something rather than just watching a scenario play out."

With its use of the Collingwood Underground Carpark, the team has clearly found a non-traditional space for its performance, which also happens to be the perfect place for this post-apocalyptic themed show. "Never Ending Night is set in the near future after various planet-wide catastrophes have led to people living underground, so the Collingwood Underground Carpark is the perfect place to perform such a show. I've seen more traditional theatre there, but I'm excited to make a show that's a bit more expansive and takes advantage of this cavernous space," Gow explains.

It was in 2014 when Brockman came across the poem The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer that sparked the initial concept of a London production of Never Ending Night during its Ebola scare. Published almost 20 years ago, the poem is a reminder to love life and love each other, and with the current refugee crisis happening in Australia, the show has been reworked to explore our hope and our humanity towards this issue. 

"The Invitation is about the truths we tell ourselves and our friends," Gow says. "Bridgette, Amelia and I had started writing before Libby sent us the poem, but I was quite excited once I read it because it speaks to the heart of our story - it doesn't matter what facade you present, the truth will become clear when you get to know someone intimately." 

"With that in mind, Director Renee Palmer has helped choreograph an intimate tale of these people's daily lives under circumstances we can't quite wrap our heads around. The audience can expect to step into a world that's unfamiliar but has echoes of our world. Never Ending Night is a story about how every choice can have major consequences and the audience will see that happen as the show unfolds."

Five Quick Ones

1. Art is the interrogation of questions that don't have simple answers. 

2. If you had to become an animal, which would you choose and why? I like to travel, so some kind of bird. Let's say a wedge-tailed eagle, because it's bigger than America's bald-headed eagle. 
3. What song would you play on repeat to torture someone? "Stop" by The Spice Girls (it just came on the radio). 
4. How long would you survive in a zombie apocalypse? It really depends who I'm with at the time; surviving the zombie apocalypse is definitely a team sport. 
5. It just isn't a Fringe Festival experience without seeing three shows in a night, which is totally achievable if you come to Never Ending Night's 7pm show and then head to the Hub.

Show Information

Venue: Collingwood Underground Carpark, 55 Harmsworth St, Collingwood 
Season:  18 - 29 September | Tues - Thurs 7:0pm, Fri - Sat 7:00pm and 9:00pm 
Length: 60 minutes 
Tickets: $35 Full | $25 Conc 

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