I first meet MDR at the Junction Regional Arts Conference in Launceston last year, where I attended haircuts by children. It was an interesting experience. I found the children who cut my hair rather timid, but they were probably feeding off my fear of hairdressers (it was the first time I’d been to a hairdresser since I was ten or so, and the first boy was so nervous he ended up asking someone else to do it). The best part about the experience was the fantastic energy and crazy idea of being in a salon run by children: they took the bookings, they ran all the equipment, they wilfully whirred away at the electric razor – not on my head, but my friend Shaylee ended up with an undercut which, depending on who you asked, was a star, a map of Australia, or a road-killed cat. One of the great things about the project, says Darren, is “adults and children who don’t know each other actually have a lot to say to each other,” and it was a really interesting experience getting to sit down and talk for forty minutes with children I didn’t know.
Mammalian Diving Reflex started as a theatre company, and then they moved into working with people, rather than performers. Says Darren “We often work with non-artists as performers as participants. We ask them to do what they do best. We ask them to represent themselves and not be anything else, and we do that very theatrically.”