Petrouchka Re-imagined

When did you first come across Petrouchka? What attracted you to retell the story?

In 1993 I watched the Royal New Zealand Ballet's version of Petrouchka at the Theatre Royal in Christchurch (I was seven years old). Douglas Wright performing the titular role. It was everything I had never seen in theatre: explosions of colour, powerful movement, strange choreography, violence and magic. Wright’s gestures were lucid, dynamic, free and yet tormented: his sad, pale, pock-marked face impossible to overlook.

I rediscovered the work in my first year at university during an unbearable set of compulsory theory papers for first year music students. Although I despised the classes and failed most of the exams miserably (eventually dropping out), it unlocked a new-found love for Stravinsky’s score, which is an absolute masterpiece: lively, complex, expressive and thrilling.

I guess every theatre-maker has a go at appropriating classics at some stage, but text-based re-presentations of Chekov and Shakespeare are so overdone and I'm not dramaturgically sophisticated enough to subvert Hamlet (also, yawn). But I love that dancers get to do Rite Of Spring, a kind of rite-of-passage into choreographic adulthood. So, this is me trying to be cool and post-modern.

What can we expect from the show?

A work-in-process: unfinished; unresolved; evolving. I'm taking the three full weeks of Fringe to investigate form, content, and performative languages. Every night, I'm sharing new discoveries with the audience, whether that's from previous nights or in real-time. I've been experimenting with puppetry, projection, and a live-feed camera, but I can't guarantee any of those things will remain over the full season.

What are the central questions, themes, or conflicts that lies at the heart of the work for you?

The story is bizarre and haunting, and in a contemporary context both poignant and problematic. It reveals the frailty of the human spirit, and embodied states of loneliness, desire, and destruction. There are three main lines of inquiry: the ballet (plot; characters; iconography etc); the socio-historic context of the ballet (influences; symbolism; Nijinsky/Nureyev etc); and finally the RNZB 1993 version (and my own relationship to the work). See, there's heaps: shouldn't have opened that can of worms.

What has been the most difficult part of the production?

It's personal and I've been sitting on the ideas for years, but I'm putting limitations on myself so I don't get weighed in it being 'good' or 'ready'. This is a work that I will make over the next 12-18 months, and it's early stages. My desire is to make rich, complex, and considered work so I'm trying to reject the notion of quick-making-outcomes-based theatre because I'm accepting that great work doesn't happen overnight - but it will happen™.

Finally, what are you looking forward to seeing at the Fringe Festival?

Finally, an easy question Jonty! Because I'm performing every night, I've had to curate my time around the show so nerded out and have already bought tickets for: 21 Movements (Alexa Wilson); Powerballad (Julia Croft); We May Have To Choose (Emma Hall/Prue Clark); Mea Tau (Elijah Kennar) and Revolt She Said Revolt Again (Silo Theatre, directed by Virginia Frankovich). I'll see as much as I can because I think it's important to support my community and because fringe always inspires, and challenges me.

Little Sister is part of the Performance Salon in the Basement Studio during Fringe 2017