No Plain Jane

Theatre reviews and musings (mostly) from Adelaide

Fairfax Festival Blog Six: Coffee with Caitlyn Barclay

Today, in a break from watching rehearsals, I sat down with Caitlyn Barclay, up from her current hometown of Melbourne to visit her old hometown of Swan Hill. Barclay is currently studying theatre at Monash University, but before she was there she was a participant in the Fairfax Festival, and, in 2011, their first Young Artist in Residence.

Her first Fairfax Festival was 2009. “We had this three day festival,” she said, “it made us super motivated, and then we didn’t have anything again until it comes around the next year.” So with Fairfax Director Claire Glenn, Barclay set up the Swan Hill Youth Theatre Ensemble, or SHYTE.

Last time I was in Swan Hill, Barclay was with SHYTE on a theatre exchange program in the Czech Republic. Collaborating with a Czech youth theatre company to create a work about birth, life and death, the Australians made the first third, the Czech’s the last, and they collaborated to make the middle.

While they could “all swear fluently” in Czech before they went, one of the biggest concerns Barclay had was the language barrier, and how to construct a play under those circumstances. “I think I learnt so much about communicating and culture,” she says, “how little language can be used, and how irrelevant it can be.”

She excitedly told me about plans to revisit within the next year: “I really want to go back. I think we made some life long friends there.”

The YAR program was established for young artists with a connection to Fairfax who want to go on and have a career in the arts. Amongst other things as the 2011 YAR, Barclay got to work with musical theatre company Magnormos and do a workshop with Noni Hazelhurst at 16th Street.

She was able to work closely with the tutors that worked with that year’s Festival.  “At the end of the residency you become friends with all the tutors and they ask what are you doing,” says Barclay. To puppeteer Penelope Bartlau of Barking Spider, she says, she  “mentioned I was moving off to Melbourne to go and further my career and expand my horizons.” Their relationship has continued, with Barclay working with Bartlau on several works since.

The opportunity to carry on this relationship past the end of the festival, she says, is “really amazing”.

Barclay has also participated in Regional Arts Victoria’s CreativeLeadership Program, before working with them on their Regional Arts Living Expo. “I keep popping my head in there every now and then,” she tells me, “and that really opened a lot of doors as well. They were like ‘any time you need help just call us up, and so I do: I just pop in and sit an talk to everyone.”

And in case that wasn’t enough for her first year in Melbourne – while also studying – she was a participant in St Martin Youth Theatre’s Catapult program, and worked on a show for the Melbourne Fringe.

All of this, says Barclay, stemmed from her time at Fairfax and with their YAR program: “one thing rolled on to another.” Now studying, all of the things that have steamed out of Fairfax and YAR has “kind of set me up too well, in a way,” she laughs.

When we finished our coffees, we wondered up to the local Anglican Church to watch some rehearsals. We spoke about independent theatre, our favourite festivals, and the fun around this Festival. While her last festival as a participant was in 2011, I get the feeling she’ll be making the return trip for many years to come.

Fairfax Festival Blog Five: Kids Interviews Part Two

IMG_1015Jess from Lake Boga, and Tianna and Maree from Swan Hill

What have you been working on for Fairfax?

 M: Pretty much Lake Boga, when it got dried up and then it got refilled by floods.

T: We’re also working on the different creatures that surround the lake: the pelicans, the yabbies, fish, stuff like that.

J: We’re joining all the animals from mainly Lake Boga and putting them into a performance in the street.

What’s your favourite thing about this week?

M: Free food.

T: Meeting the new people.

What is your favourite thing about theatre?

M: Acting and getting to show who you really are.

J: The new experiences that you get to see.

T:Taking on new characters, making them your own.


Tori and Ruby from Mount Eliza

What have you been working on for the Fairfax Festival?

R: A Shakespearean-inspired play to show in the park.

What’s your favourite thing about this week?

 T: Getting to know new people.

What is your favourite thing about theatre? 

R: Getting to be someone that you’re not usually in real life, and expressing yourself in different ways, through different personalities.

Fairfax Festival Blog Four: Day One

First full day at the Fairfax Festival yesterday. I’m already a tad exhausted.

The day was broken up into two halves: during the morning, groups worked with the artists they have participated in workshops with, rehearsing for their Friday night performances. In the afternoon, the groups were mixed up and everyone participated in two of the six workshops they will participate in before the week is through.

The thing that I’ve been enjoying the most so far is seeing some of the absolute diversity of what these kids are working on. With Tristan Louth-Robins, I watched a group of students rehearse for their sound art performance, a work that will combine recordings they created in workshops at their school and live sounds the kids make with their mouths, drumming pens on paint cans, and stomping their feet.

I watched some kids working with the artists behind Norm and Elsie rehearse their work that will be performed in a car parked on the street, and a satire of Australian politics based on a Game of Thrones inspired Shakespeare under Don Bridges. I watched Alex Pinder direct the movement of saris, representing the fall and rise of Lake Boga. I revisited with the kids from Murruk, who will perform in a shipping container, and the now completed giant Snuff Puppets.

The Fairfax Festival stared as a much more traditional multi-school eisteddfod type situation, but here the kids are getting to experiment with the arts and theatre, and be excited by facets of that they might have never come into contact with before. The works are very hands-on, with the students creating works that are theirs and they can take ownership in.

In the afternoon, workshops I first learnt how to make human pyramids – I feel rather a lot more comfortable being the base then the fly, although I perhaps secretly harbour hopes of climbing to the top of a giant pyramid.

I then moved into a workshop about peformance in the outdoors. And, look, a lot of it was the things that annoyed me about drama class: pretending to be an animal. Pretending to be an animal with a particular emotion. Pretending to be an animal with the opposite emotion. Strange vocal exercises that I could totally see the point of, but wouldn’t it just be more fun if we were actually acting right now? It’s no surprise I never went to drama school, and that was for many reasons, but an inability to keep a straight face through three years of this could have weighed heavily on my mind. Of course, for many people, I don’t think writing about theatre is the funnest thing they could imagine, to which I say: it’s brilliant, and you should try it more.

In saying this, though, who knew that practicing your lines with your thumbs in your mouth actually makes you sound so much clearer? I will now assume this is how all actors get good diction, forever.

On to day two, I’m not sure what crazy tasks they’ll have me undertaking today.