It's true, life is what happens to your while you're busy making other plans. Melbourne performer, Andi Snelling, was living an active life with numerous acting projects constantly on the go. However, her life changed drastically in 2014 when she was bitten by a tick. Her return season of Happy-Go-Wrong for this year's Melbourne Fringe Festival is a comical yet candid look at her subsequent diagnosis of Lyme disease and what it's like to be battling with a chronic invisible illness.
Opening up about something as personal and contentious as Lyme disease has involved dealing with a number of obstacles along the way for Snelling. "The most difficult aspect of making Happy-Go-Wrong content-wise has been deciding how much of the specifics around my chronic illness to share. It’s an extremely controversial disease in Australia and I’m conscious of protecting both my own and my family’s safety and privacy around some of the more political elements," she says. "This is why the show only really references Lyme in abstract, indirect ways, which also means it becomes more about the human experience of fate and mortality."
"An added challenge is that I am very much still in the thick of undergoing treatment and am regularly unwell, so I wanted to create a show that not only supports me, but inspires me to keep going," Snelling continues. "Usually artists make shows about conquering their illness after the fact, but I’m taking the risk of baring all while still in the middle of such a testing and uncertain part of the journey. I feel this offers the audience a unique insight into the ongoing, precarious nature of chronic illness and ultimately, gives the show a power and immediacy that would not be there if I didn’t get so personal."
The show incorporates many of Snelling's skills with aspects of dance, cabaret, physical theatre, comedy and clowning all finding their way in. However, their inclusion was never intentional but naturally came together during her creative process. "I don’t ever sit down and decide I’m going to do a specific genre or deliberately fuse any. Although I have a tendency towards more physical forms of performance, it is all very organic," she explains. "It’s always me stumbling on things and then working out later how to make sense of it all and put it together. Certainly, the current incarnation of Happy-Go-Wrong draws upon a beautiful array of performance styles that I feel make for a dramaturgy that is unique to me."
The experience of making Happy-Go-Wrong has been very cathartic and healing for Snelling, who with a little help from her friends was able to distinguish the difference between Art Therapy and art
that is therapeutic. "I consulted with the great Italian Clown
Master Giovanni Fussetti on this during a time when I had all
these bits of my show but didn’t know how to put them all together or
what my overall aim was. He was very helpful in clarifying what to keep for
my therapist and what to share with my audience," she says. "I have to also credit my director
Danielle Cresp with keeping me on track in this regard. She’s
constantly making sure my ego is in check and that artistic decisions
are made with integrity. We both care so deeply about the audiences my
Happy-Go-Wrong may deal with some heavy issues, but like Snelling, this isn't a show that wallows in self-pity but instead finds the hope and joy in living. "If audiences walk away from my show realising that we have a lot more resilience in us than we realise, and that sometimes, tragically, magically, it takes great adversity to learn this, I'll feel extremely satisfied. That’s what the show is about after all; how on earth we keep going when things go impossibly wrong," she tells me. "But even if they just go away considering taking up rollerskating, I’m still cool with that."
1. If you had to name your child after a vegetable what would it be?
Definitely not Kale. It’s what I eat every bloody day and I’m over it! Maybe Artichoke... Yeah, Art, for short.
2. Which reality TV show would you most like to appear/compete on?If those whacky Japanese game shows count, then 100% that.
3. A movie that sums up my life is Amelie.
4. What's the one thing that happened during a show you were involved with that you wish you could forget?
Oh gosh, so many moments to choose from here! I’ve done a fair bit of comedy improv in my time and I’m pretty sure I’ve said some dubious things on stage...
5. Art is artful.
Venue: The Burrow, 83 Brunswick St. Fitzroy.
Season: 13 - 29 September | Fri - Sun 5:30pm
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $28 Full | $26 Conc | $24 Group 4+
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival
Image Credit: Darren Gill