Sunday 24 September 2023

Bloomshed are preparing for an epic bloodbath with A Dodgeball Named Desire (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

Bloomshed is back at Melbourne Fringe Festival with its unique take on classic literature, this time turning its attention to the work of Tennessee Williams. But any expectations on what A Dodgeball Named Desire will be about should be dropped right now, unless you already suspected the ensemble will go up against a sub-elite AFL team in a game of dodgeball. We caught up with one of the brains behind Bloomshed, Anna Louey, to discuss this show and how these ideas formulate.

"Bloomshed as a theatre company is always thinking of the next show to develop, but we can also stew on a suggestion for years before it comes to life," she tells me. "In March of 2022, we met together for an intensive development of A Dodgeball Named Desire and knew that we wanted to make something about sport and theatre, and the colliding world in which theatre becomes sport. We had to set this aside to focus on our season of Paradise Lost in July, but revisited Dodgeball in October through the support of Darebin Arts Speakeasy. During this development, we realised that we were serious about the show and committed to buying a stack of dodgeballs that were the official size and weight as per international rules. We weren’t messing around. It meant hours of pounding each other with dodgeballs while simultaneously working on the script. A year later, we’re putting it on at fortyfivedownstairs as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival and we can finally whip the balls back out."

"There will be stadium lights, a dodgeball or two flying your way, and if you’re brave, maybe even a chance to play. Audiences will be entering a sporting arena that’s unlike anything they’ve experienced before. We’ll be playing like our lives depend on it and we’re not afraid to fight to the death," Louey proclaims. "For 60 minutes, we will compete in a Battle Royale that explores the fierce competition between theatre and sports, fantasy and reality. Our audiences know that our work is a high-octane, high-energy mess, but you’re in for what might be our sweatiest show yet."

It's not just sweat on the stage that Louey and her co-stars have been contending with, but also the fitness and athletic preparation in the lead up to this theatrical extravaganza. "I’m a long distance runner and did my first marathon last year so I’m hoping my cardio fitness carries me over the line. When I was in grade 3, my PE teacher noticed that I had a shocking throw during a game of dodgeball and gave me special throwing coaching. You’d think I’ve improved since then, but I might have to hunt my teacher down for some more tips."

The idea of competition between the performing arts industry is an interesting one to be explored, one that Louey hopes does not become as savage as the dodgeball showdown that is looming. "While in many ways it can feel like theatre is competing against each other for the same audiences and opportunities, I want to believe that we can all have a slice of the cake. My job outside of performing is in the advocacy and education sector where I work towards building communities for refugee and migrant young people, so a lot of my time is spent thinking about how communities can be included and strengthened," she says. "As the arts are repeatedly neglected and underappreciated, I definitely see value in us uplifting, supporting and creating space for fellow theatre-makers to produce the best, impactful art that they can. I’d rather leave the competition for the dodgeball court."

As Bloomshed's reputation for reimagining texts in extremely new settings or styles - Paradise Lost, Animal Farm, and The Nose - keeps growing, does it become harder to come up with such original and
inspired concepts? "The beauty behind Bloomshed’s collaborators is that we don’t have defined roles and we all do a bit of everything. This means we have quite a few brains behind imagining new ideas and possibilities," Louey tells me. "Not to say that it's necessarily easy, but it helps that we continue to find our voice and style with each production. We know that we want to push the boundaries. We know that we’re not afraid of big political ideas. And we know that we love a dance break. The rest of the puzzle can be worked out between us all."


1) My favourite meal is Yum cha. Nothing beats steaming dumplings, baos and egg tarts spinning on a lazy Susan.
2) A TV show I would like to be cast in is Parks and Recreation. I used to work for a city council where people would call me about possums in their bin, so I’d feel right at home on the show.
3) A little known skill I have is
I’m incredible at finding lost things for others. Often it’s a lot of me yelling at someone to retrace their steps, but I’m definitely more useful than praying to Saint Anthony.
4) My proudest professional moment is
fixing the soft serve machine when I worked at McDonald’s as a teen. I’m sure I made countless people’s days.
5) Happiness is floating in the ocean! Classic water sign things.

Show Details

Venue: fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season: 18 - 29 October | Tues - Sat 7:30pm, Sun 5:00pm
Duration: 60 minutes
Tickets: $35 Full | $25 Concession and Preview
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Image Credits: Cameron Stewart

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