INTERVIEW: Perth Theatre Company

Published in The Music (WA) and on, Nov 2014


Perth Theatre Company’s 2015 program is like nothing they’ve produced before. Artistic director Melissa Cantwell discusses the Hollywood highlights and immersive elements on offer with Daniel Cribb.

Where you might watch, read or listen to the news and briefly take in facts before moving onto the next breaking story, Perth Theatre Company artistic director Melissa Cantwell and her partners in crime see a completely different side of things. New work From The Rubble, which kicks off their 2015 program in March, captures a different side to the fast-paced news bites by telling stories of civilians living in conflict zones and others based on award winning WA journalist Sophie McNeill with the assistance of acclaimed visual artist Fleur Elise Noble. “How exciting to be able to talk about it,” Cantwell begins, having just broken free from rehearsals of The Rubble. “We’re playing with elements of reality and I guess I became fascinated with how you deal with watching the news, and how you deal with the amount of global grief. So we’ve discovered some stories that have an element of hope or beauty or transformation in them. It’s a very theatrical telling, in the sense that we’re creating an environment that’s very projective and immersive.”

At the helm of one of Australia’s leading theatre companies, Cantwell has not only found time to coordinate the 2015 program, but also produce her own piece for the event, which also aims to draw its audience in. She’s written and directed The Song Was Wrong, one of five ground breaking pieces on next year’s program, and it is set to unfold in June, using numerous elements, focusing on its score, to tell the tale of an epic love story and the trails and tribulations, love and redemption involved. “It has a really beautiful, strong story behind it, so there is the ability to create something very memorable for people; a way of looking at a story that they might not have experienced before.”

One-on-one experience yourseven comes as close to that as possible, by taking participants through a large outdoor installation, offering up various personalised encounters created from their past, and The Confidence Man allows six audience members to take to the stage in an intimate 80-seat venue. And if you aren’t sold yet, Hollywood star Jai Courtney, whose recently starred in Divergence, and the Die Hard and Terminator reboots, returns to Perth to close the season playing Lennie Small in John Steinbeck’s timeless hit Of Mice And Men, with live music from Stoney Joe. “Reading it again as an adult, you start to understand how many stories have sprung from that world that Steinbeck created – that world of friendship and loyalty, and how often that runs through other narratives we see in today’s world. It’s enduring, and to look at it now and revisit it as an adult understanding all those questions of wanting to find your place in the world and caring so deeply for people and being part of a social system; it’s an interesting thing to revisit.”