Interview with Bridget Balodis and Rachel Perks, LAB-14 Artists in Residence
7 August 2017
Bridget Balodis and Rachel Perks are theatremakers by trade. Current artists-in-residence at Creative Spaces' LAB-14 Studio, which aims to embed artists within a network of scientists and researchers working at the Carlton Connect Initiative (CCI). They presented a live, public reading of one of the works they developed during their residency in August.
How long have you been collaborating together?
We first collaborated in 2014, Rachel approached me with this play called ANGRY SEXX. The play seems like a regular femme-teen drama and then these monkeys from the future show up. I think she thought I wouldn’t take it seriously but I did, there wasn’t anything else like it in Melbourne. We’ve been working together since then, our most recently produced work GROUND CONTROL was part of the Next Wave Festival in 2016 and we’re hoping this new work, MORAL PANIC, will be on next year. They make up a trilogy of plays that are about the negative impact of our current systems of world governance, on women and femmes, and on the environment.
Tell us a bit about your LAB-14 residency and your interest in the issues of climate change
I guess we’re interested in making work that deals with environmental apocalypse because it’s a very real threat and we feel like people aren’t talking about it with enough urgency. We’re very interested in intersectional oppression and exploitation so it’s been interesting being at LAB 14 because we’ve been able to make contact with a number of women scientists; so we’re having two different but linked conversations - one about climate crisis and another about being women in fields dominated by men, and the link between thousands of years of male domination, and our current, failing social and economic structures.
How powerful is theatre as a tool for social change?
Powerful! It’s a great way to start or re-invigorate conversations because it deals in hypotheticals and abstracts. We tend to present dystopian visions of the future and it’s exciting to hear people argue about how realistic they are (or not). Our work seeks to present the ultimate crisis - with a view to agitating more action from our fellow humans.
How important is humour in making art that deals with issues like climate change?
It’s critical with any sort of serious subject matter like this that you get the audience on side first, you don’t want people to feel like they’re at a lecture, or that you’re being aggressive. You need to make sure they’re with you before you try and take them anywhere and jokes are a big part of that! We like to warm people up with jokes before we get into the serious stuff.
What’s a typical day in the studio like for you?
It varies, sometimes just one of us is in here on the computer writing a grant, sometimes we’re working together, trying to hash out ideas. We’ve conducted a few rehearsals and a lot of meetings with our collaborators. We’ve got a couple of development intensives coming up which we’re really excited about. Mainly it’s a dedicated space where our work can feel centralised and focused, and it’s great to be part of a little community like we are with MAP (Melbourne Accelerator Program).
Tell us a bit about the work you will be presenting as your public outcome later this month, MORAL PANIC. You mentioned you have also developed another work during your time at LAB-14, which has a more sci-fi bent - can you tell us a bit about this one?
MORAL PANIC is a play about witches! It takes place in an ancient forest on the outskirts of a puritanical town called ‘Sweetwood’. The first half of the play follows Andy, Evie and Sue-Anne, teenagers that meet in the forest and attempt to cast a full moon curse on Evie’s awful uncle. It’s revealed that Andy and Evie have been contacting an ancient Fire Witch through a digital ouija board of their own invention and that this Witch has asked to be brought back from the other side. They bring her back and things unfold from there.
It’s really about alternate forms of power and governance, and although it starts in this B-grade horror terrain, it ultimately brings us face to face with the very real terrifying situation that we’re in, and the more frightening challenge of doing something about it. It ends with a sort of invocation, a call to arms.
Our other (very new) project, End of Life, is particularly inspired by our time here, the strange intersection of ideas, being in an old hospital building, and surrounded by people studying climate-change as well as people working with VR technology. It's a play that looks at the population crisis (and in particular the water crisis), assisted suicide or voluntary euthanasia, and traditional notions of masculinity.
The work places us in a dystopian future where humankind has been pushed to the point of deliberately extinguishing particular members of the population - in order to maximise resources. A measure that the government is implementing is simply called “The Gift” and claims to be an opportunity to experience euphoria and contentment before making the ultimate sacrifice; dying so that all the water can be sucked from your body and returned to the community at large.This will be a two hander, a dark dystopian story about a young man and the woman who kills him.
How important is it to have a space to develop and plan works before test readings and performances?
It’s imperative - we need time and space for research and discussion not just with each other but with our designers, actors, dramaturg. This time we put in means that our ideas are more fully developed and there’s greater depth to the overall concepts before that stage of having an audience there to give feedback.
What else is on the cards for you both, post-residency?
We’ll keep pursuing funding and presentation opportunities for both of these new works. I am directing another (non apocalyptic!) play at Red Stitch at the end of the year called Desert 6.29pm and Rachel is planning a couple of long-term placements with writers in the USA.
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