Monday 20 August 2018

Untitled No. 7 - Melbourne Fringe Festival preview

At the 2015 Melbourne Fringe Festival, Telia Nevile won the Best Emerging Writer award for Poet Vs Pageant. In 2018, she returns to the Festival with a new show called Untitled No. 7, where through a mix of poetry, cabaret and performance art, she takes an offbeat look at what it means to fail and how success is measured.

There is an incessant need in society to define ourselves by our careers, relationships and successes, which Nevile is keen to challenge, beginning with the name of her show. "I've always loved how visual artists don't need to name their work, and that the non-name they choose to give it - Untitled - leaves the meaning of the work completely open to interpretation," she explains. "It doesn't define anything, and this whole show is all about defining things and then learning how to redefine, or un-define, them. I picked the number 7 because figuring out life and success and failure and ambition is always a work in progress, so you've got to go through a few drafts to get it right."

"The older I get the more I worry about what success is, and what I've made of my life. When you're younger, you're taught that success means a career and marriage and kids and a house. There's so much time to become a 'success' that you never worry about it, because there's always more time, but what if your life looks completely different to the picket-fence as you get older?" Nevile asks.

"I still wear a name tag at work, I don't want kids and may never get married, and I spend my time making up ridiculous things to do on-stage with gaffa tape and pilates balls. Does that mean that I'm a failure? Or is it that I'm succeeding in a way that I just don't recognise yet? I'm learning that you need to redefine success for yourself based on the things that you think are important, but learning it and doing it are two very separate things, so there's still a struggle inside, and Untitled No. 7 is about exploring that pull and push."

Nevile plays Darling, a fairy tale hero, who along with pixies Doubt and Fear embarks on a journey that will have her questioning the importance that she has placed on what makes her a success. "Darling is the traditional fairy tale hero, who is cursed at a young age and then goes through a harrowing adventure before learning a fairly important life lesson. She carries pieces of my optimism and my anger and my hope and my depression with her, but as with most fairy tales, a lot of it is drawn in absolutes, so she only shares one aspect of me at a time."

Writer and performer, Ash Flanders has jumped on board with the show as dramaturg and has been able to inject some of the wit and outside-the-box approach to performance and theatre that he has come to be known for. "Ash has an amazing comic mind and a really playful spirit and he's encouraged me to go bigger and bolder and more ridiculous. I have been so so grateful to have had him consulting during the writing process and then be able to explore further with him in the rehearsal room," Nevile tells me. 

While this dark and relatable fairy tale, which includes musical numbers such as “Disney Taught Me to Want What Won’t Come True and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt” and “My Penis Is a Lighthouse”, has Darling exploring what potential and success are, I wonder how Nevile defines this. "I guess I'd like it not to be defined - it should be something that each person defines for themselves. And it should be allowed to shift and change as the person shifts and changes," she says. "If pressed, I think success should be more about the qualities you show - courage, compassion, empathy, persistence - and less about societally recognised milestones."

Five Quick Ones

1. Art is inspiring and heart-swelling and should fill you with questions and conversation and a need to explore.

2. If you had to become an animal, which would you choose and why?  I think I'd probably live my best life as a cat. I'm a dog person, but dogs are expected to be happy and energetic all the time. People love it when a cat is happy and affectionate, but nobody bats an eyelid when they're an fact they find it endearing. 
3. What song would you play on repeat to torture someone?
"Call Me Maybe". It's an incredibly catchy song that actually makes me really happy, but I think repeat playings over a matter of hours may lead to brain atrophy and uncontrollable eye twitches. 
4. How long would you survive in a zombie apocalypse?
Not very long at all. I'm a pacifist. And not a very good runner... 
5. It just isn't a Fringe Festival experience without binging on as many shows as you can get to, dancing as hard as you can go, and then feeling the cold night air against your sweat as you meander home on jelly-legs with a head full of ideas.

Show Information

Venue: Arts House, 521 Queensberry St., North Melbourne 
Season:  14 - 21 September | Tues - Sat 8:00pm, Sun 7:00pm (Wednesday 19th September performance will be Auslan interpreted)
Length: 45 minutes 
Tickets: $25 Full | $20 Conc and Cheap Tuesday

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