Thursday 7 September 2023

Eleni Telemachou is sending people Packing with her new interactive show (Melbourne Fringe Festival)

There are two camps when it comes to packing: those who love it and see it as a sign of adventure and those who loathe it and see it as painful and arduous task. With her upcoming immersive and interactive Melbourne Fringe Festival show for one person at a time, Eleni Telemachou is giving people the opportunity to live their dream or nightmare by packing someone else's belonging, and along the way unpacking ideas around growth, places and endings. It's a solo

"The idea of Packing came to me while I was flat-hunting around Melbourne. I was so bored going through the same process again and again until I started paying attention to the different objects tenants had lying around their flats." Telemachou recalls. "These simple objects held so many stories about who the tenants were, what they valued and where they had been."

"Packing is influenced by Temping, an interactive one-person show created by Dutch Kills Theatre. I had been working with instruction-based theatre for a while but I hadn’t previously seen a show that was structured around the idea of a single audience member being alone in a room," she explains. "When I did Temping, I found that being alone in the space opened up so many exciting possibilities and encouraged me to interact with the world of the play with greater engagement and playfulness. I felt so inspired I immediately knew I wanted to experiment with the form and combine it with the immersive and sensory elements I love playing with."

Telemachou has devised a narrative around the experience where participants have been hired to pack up the studio of an artist named Marigold. Locating Marigold's possessions and some of her writing will aid in putting together the artist's story. "We are hoping that participants will be excited by this challenge and engage with the space playfully and curiously. Our aim is that participants will have fun and hopefully feel a heartwarming sense of intimacy and connection to Marigold.

"Marigold’s story is central to the play and therefore it was really important for us to dedicate time to really get to know Marigold so we could add depth and nuance to her space," she tells me. "Creating her story and determining these objects was an organic, two-way process. Some parts of Marigold’s journey were devised and then we deliberately sourced specific objects or pieces of writing that would best tell that part of the narrative. Other times, we created stories about objects we already had or found at second-hand stores and then fit them into the wider narrative of Marigold’s life."

When it comes to packing in real life, Telemachou rests firmly in the middle of the spectrum. "I have travelled and moved so much over the past two years that I wouldn’t say I get excited to pack. It is one of those stressful things that just needs to be done!" she says. "But it is both an ending and a beginning. Whether you are packing your work bag for the day or moving house, you are sorting through what you want to take forward and what you would rather leave behind. Every time I pack, I always find myself getting so excited discovering all the little things I had forgotten about and reflecting back on my personal journey and growth. Given that packing is something that most people can relate to, maybe Packing will even inspire participants to reflect on their own journey next time they have to pack!"

Telemachou has worked on a number of projects experimenting with immersive and interactive theatre, and while Packing is the first she has created and produced in Australia, she hopes there will be many more to come. "What I absolutely love about theatre, and what drew me to it in the first place, is that unique live energy, created in a single space at a specific moment in time. I like to think of theatre as an experience and we experience the world in a multidimensional and multisensory way. In this light, playing with immersive theatre pushes me to engage audiences in unique and unexpected ways," she says.

"Although interactive elements are not something I always incorporate in my practice, I do enjoy designing a fun game to play with the audience. We live in an age where information is so easily handed to us that I think it’s important to challenge audiences to actively engage with art and have more control over shaping their own experience. That is why I prefer to refer to the audience of Packing as participants."


1) My favourite meal is anything my grandmas make.
2) A TV show I would like to be cast in is
The Witcher because I like to believe I’m secretly a witch and my magical powers will manifest one day…
3) A little known skill I have is
I used to play the drums.
4) My proudest professional moment is
… there are so many professional moments that I’m proud of but I think the most important one was taking some time after uni to reconnect with myself and figure out what kind of theatre I want to make.
5) Happiness is
being true to ourselves.

Show Details

Venue: Queen Victoria Women's Centre, 210 Lonsdale St, Melbourne
Season: 7 - 8 October | 10am, 11:30am, 1pm, 2:30pm, 4pm, 5:30pm, 7pm and 8:30pm
Duration: 45 minutes
Tickets: $24 Full | $22 Concession
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival

Image Credit: Elena L. Ioannucci

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