Performer Interview: Fleur Murphy19 Oct 2015, by Interviews in
Ilana from Auslan Stage Left spoke with producer and performer Fleur Murphy about her upcoming show with TBC Theatre, ‘Project: Hysteria’. Project: Hysteria is the umbrella title for the epic, ambitious and inspiring presentation of two of Tennessee Williams’ one-act plays.
Read on to see what Fleur has to say about her theatre journey, the work of Tennessee Williams and the resilience of independent theatre makers.
ASL: How did you initially become involved in theatre?
FS: I’ve always been involved in theatre and acting from a young age, at school and within my local community. I grew up in Mooroopna, which is a country town near Shepparton in regional Victoria. After finishing high school I went and studied acting at the University Of Ballarat Arts Academy (now Federation University), graduating in 2004. After that I moved to Melbourne where I’ve been working in theatre, film, TV as an actor. These last few years have also seen me dabble in writing and producing, predominately for theatre. My first play ‘Shadows of Angels’ was presented last year by TBC Theatre in partnership with the National Trust of Victoria. The show was about Australian female criminals from the 1920s and was performed in the gritty cells of Melbourne’s historic City Watch House. For TBC’s current production, ‘Project: Hysteria’, I’m producing it as well as acting in it, plus helping with marketing – so I’m wearing a few different ‘hats’. I guess I’m at a point in my career where I feel like I have a very ‘holistic’ approach to theatre making. I don’t see myself as just an actor anymore, I refer to myself as a ‘creative’ instead. I love being involved in so many aspects of theatre making and the arts.
ASL: What’s the best part of your job?
FS: Oh, so many things! Each show I work on is different and has a whole new set of challenges and successes – so it’s hard to put into words exactly what it is that I love. Probably at the core, it’s always the people and being able to collaborate with them to make a really unique and special experience – not only the creatives involved, but for also our audience.
ASL: Tell us about your upcoming show, Project: Hysteria. How did it come in to being? What is it about?
FS: The director, Alister Smith, and I were chatting almost two years back about wanting to work together on something. At the time we were both interested in Tennessee Williams, his work and who he was as a man and artist. Many chats and coffees later we decided to look at presenting some of Tennessee’s lesser known and rarely performed one-act plays – play’s that were considered to be the ‘origin’ plays or precursors to his famous works ‘The Glass Menagerie’ and ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’.
At the same time an opportunity came up to pitch ideas to Poppy Seed, a new independent theatre festival on in Melbourne. The festival is designed to financially and logistically support artists to develop and deliver their work by providing a venue for the performance season, marketing and artistic support, as well as some financial support to go towards production costs. Al and I saw the Poppy Seed festival as a great potential platform to present this show ‘Project: Hysteria’ – so we pitched the idea. We were very lucky to be selected as one of the four festival shows that will be presented as part of the festival.
Tennessee’s one-acts are really quite wonderful. They’ll offer Melbourne audiences the chance to see the ‘seeds’ of iconic roles such as ‘Blanche’, ‘Stanley’ and ‘Amanda’, before they became iconic.
ASL: What drove you to provide an Auslan interpreter for your show?
FS: In the past, our company has presented work in rather strange or unconventional spaces (gaol cells and decrepit gyms), which has often meant that not all of our work had been particularly accessible to everyone. For ‘Project: Hysteria’ Poppy Seed are providing us with a venue that has [mobility] access – the Trades Hall Ballroom. For independent theatre companies budgets are always tight, so having the cost of a venue covered for us meant that it freed up some of our funds so that we could look at spending it on other things we’ve always wanted to have but couldn’t always afford. For TBC, one of these things was being able to provide an Auslan interpreted performance. Poppy Seed helped put us in a position where we could start to make our work more accessible, so we really wanted to try and make it as inclusive and accessible as possible. We also ran a crowdfunding campaign with the other Poppy Seed companies to try and raise money for certain production costs. For TBC, we wanted to put our money towards providing an Auslan interpreted performance. The campaign was successful (hooray!), which was not only exciting but it was wonderful to know that there’s a lot of people out there in our community that also believed in proving this service too.
ASL: Why do you think that deaf access is important?
FS: I think access to all art in general is important. So much of what we do as artists, at the core, is about communication – whether it’s a painting, a song, a poem or theatre piece – we’re trying to say something with our art. We’re trying to connect with and engage with the community and world around us. I think for TBC, and for myself personally, providing an Auslan performance is a great way to really start focusing on specific ways to connect with our greater world – our audience – and to provide access to the stories we are telling. It’s certainly something I will strive to continue to provide in the future, as well as look at other ways to offer greater access through audio described shows too.
ASL: Why would you encourage deaf audiences come and see ‘Project: Hysteria’?
FS: Well, it’s Tennessee Williams, so if you’re a fan of his work then it’s chance to see something that is really quite rare and special. The production itself will be visually epic and stunning. Our director, Alister Smith says “this is Tennessee Williams like you have never seen before – raw, bold, unapologetic.” I think as well, the characters, stories and themes in Tennessee’s work are still transferable to todays world. There are messages, observations and questions there that will resonate with everyone.
Also, this show is part of a new festival that is providing a wonderful opportunity to independent artists. I think the Poppy Seed festival is going to play an important role in fostering and supporting the careers and creative practice of independent theatre makers. It’s the festival’s first year, so we want to make sure it’s success continues so that it can continue to support artists and offer our community and audience a truly wonderful experience.
ASL: What would you say to encourage other independent theatre makers to provide access to their performance for the deaf community?
FS: I think that it’s really something that we should be looking at trying to provide as much as possible. And, I know, with tight budgets that this can be easier said then done. But, we’re independent theatre makers – one of our great strengths is our drive and ability to make work, sometimes out of nothing. I think making contact with organisations such as Auslan Stage Left, and just starting the conversation about access is a great first step. The staff and volunteers are just amazing and are happy to chat about ways to make it work. They’re also wonderfully passionate about what they do which is extremely inspiring.
Thank you Fleur and TBC Theatre for providing access to this exciting show. Project: Hysteria will be Auslan interpreted on Sunday November 15th at 4:00 pm. Click here to book tickets to see Project: Hysteria!