Program

Cuckoo

Cuckoo

(L to R) Lauren Bailey, Scott Gooding, Luke Mason and David Kambouris

Cast and Creatives

Jane Miller - writer

Jane’s work has been produced both in Australia and internationally. Plays include Perfect Stillness (Short + Sweet), The Painter (MelBorn –Melbourne Writers’ Theatre), Happily Ever After (La Mama), the R.E. Ross Trust award winning True Love Travels on a Gravel Road (fortyfivedownstairs), Motherf####er (La Mama ) and Cuckoo (fortyfivedownstairs).  Jane has a Master of Writing for Performance from the Victorian College of the Arts and is co-artistic director, with director Beng Oh, of 15 Minutes from Anywhere. In 2015 15 Minutes from Anywhere’s production of Jane’s adaptation of Kenneth Mackay’s novel, The Yellow Wavepremiered at the inaugural Poppy Seed Festival of Independent Theatre. Last year  the production was selected for the 2017 VCAA Theatre Studies playlist with the script published by Currency Press. Jane’s latest play, Just a Boy, Standing in Front of a Girl, is currently in development and will be produced in 2018.

Beng Oh - director

Beng OhBeng is a Melbourne based Asian-Australian director who’s staged a wide range of productions. He has directed plays by John Patrick Shanley, Paula Vogel, Peter Handke, Heiner Müller, Frank Wedekind, Gertrude Stein and Christopher Marlowe, among many others.  He’s passionate about diversity, new work, queer theatre and is attracted to heightened and non-naturalistic texts. Recently he’s directed Coloured Aliens by Chi Vu for La Mama Theatre, Beta Fest: Theatre In Various States of Undress for Lonely Company, the Lotus Readings for Playwriting Australia’s 2016 National Play Festival and The Yellow Wave by Jane Miller (nominated Green Room Award for Outstanding Ensemble). Beng completed post-graduate directing at the Victorian College of the Arts and is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab in New York. He is co-artistic director, with Jane Miller, of 15 Minutes from Anywhere.

Emily Collett - designer

EmilyCollett-croppedEmily is a set and costume designer whose practice comprises theatre, dance, film, television and costume research.

Emily’s recent works include Niche (Northcote Town Hall 2017), The Yellow Wave (La Mama Courthouse, Adelaide Fringe, Regional Arts Tour, Poppyseed Festival 2015, Butterfly Club 2016), Middletown (Red Stitch, 2015), Dream Home (Speak Easy at Northcote Town Hall 2015), Eurydice (Red Stitch 2014) and Motherf***er: A True Love Story (Fringe Festival at La Mama 2014).

She has been recognised professionally with a Green Room Award nomination for best set and costume design for Dream Home, as the set and costume design candidate in Melbourne Theatre Companies’ 2016 Women in Theatre program with designer Christina Smith as her mentor, and as the 2017 costume design candidate in Malthouse’s Besen Family Artist Program, working with designer Zoe Atkinson on Black Rider.  In 2014 an Ian Potter Cultural Trust grant allowed her to spend 3.5 months in Europe developing her professional skills and knowledge.  She has also undertaken a mentorship with designer Hugh Colman through the national JUMP Mentorship Program in 2010, and was awarded an Australia Council ArtStart grant in the same year.

A move to London in 2011 saw Emily working for Donatella Barbieri, Senior Research Fellow in Design for Performance at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where she assisted with Donatella’s research into costume for performance.  Emily is currently  a PhD candidate at the Victorian College of the Arts, researching the topic of costume as a cultural marker, more specifically how the history of Australian costume for performance intersects with Australia’s evolving sense of national identity.

 

Lauren Bailey - Mel

Lauren BaileyLauren has trained and performed across theatre, film and television in Australia, Asia, the UK and USA. She created and co-hosts The Act of Storytelling podcast, and co-created The Killing Fever and This is What it Feels Like with Melbourne dramatist, Adam JA Cass. Awarded Best Screenplay/Best Actress at SIPFest, Gold Coast Film Festival 2017, for her own short film, In Life Today, her other screen credits include performances in House Husbands and Sonnigsburg, and feature films Out of Order, So Long, A Journey Through Time and Experience the Knowing. Anno Zombie, by Baggage Productions, marked her recent return to stage and she is thrilled to be a part of the cast for Cuckoo.

Scott Gooding - Leo

Scott Gooding is a theatre director, actor, teacher, and dramaturge. As Artistic Director of Vicious Fish Theatre productions include 360 Positions In A One Night Stand, The Belbel Project, a series of four works by playwright Sergi Belbel, Eric – The One Man Sketch Comedy Show, written by a number of Melbourne independent playwrights, As Artistic Director of RAG Theatre, an inclusionary group for people with Mental Health issues and funded by the City Of Port Phillip, productions include Occupied, Prom Night, The Classic Tale Of Faust, The Story of Moses and Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. He was last onstage with The City They Burned for Attic Erratic Theatre in the 2014 Melbourne Fringe Festival and the 2015 Brisbane Festival.

Luke Mason - J

Luke MasonLuke is a performer with a proclivity for storytelling. Since graduating from Federation University Arts Academy (2014), he continued his training with a short course at the New York Film Academy (2015). His recent work has seen him perform in the Theatre 451 productions of Boomerang (2017), and Brotherly (2016). Voice credits include Fate and Fables: A Djinn’s Wish (2017). Luke is currently working on co-creating his own exploratory ensemble, incorporating multiple performative mediums, to discover what the “Australian voice” means and how it can be used to express and enhance classic and emerging stories.

David Kambouris - Dan

David KambourisDavid studied Theatre Performance at BAPA graduating in 1999. David’s stage credits include Cuckoo (2015), Mein Kampf, True Love Travels on a Gravel Road (15 Minutes From Anywhere). Roberto Zucco, Nil, Cat & Buried, The Doctor (Le Poulet Terrible). An Air Balloon Across Antarctica (3 To A Room), The Object of Desire (Fly On The Wall), Outlookers (Arena), Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Nights Dream (Essential Theatre). David was also a founding member of Red Stitch Actors Theatre.

TV Credits include sn:tv and Sarvo (Nickelodeon). Film Credits include 5 Moments of Infidelity, The Twins of Berlin, Bored Game, Trilogy, Vibrant Alarm , I Suppose I Had it Coming.

Luke Mason (J)

Writer’s Note

For many Australian writers, opportunities to revisit a play following its original production are all too rare. It has therefore been both a delight and a privilege to have the chance to mount a second production of Cuckoo and to have worked closely with two talented creative teams in two years to bring both versions to an audience.

Although I know what triggered my desire to write the play, I am not sure I know where the play itself came from. I commenced working on it as the major work of my master’s course at VCA in 2014 and found an intensity in the process that gave me a sense of freedom in the actual writing of it. Perhaps because I was studying and in an environment where I felt challenged to push myself in new directions, there was a feeling of liberty in creating the world of the play and I was very conscious of wanting to try new things and experiment with language, rhythm and narrative.

In some ways, Cuckoo has elements of comedy, drama and intrigue. It aims to explore the nature of truth and happiness as well as the relationship of these two things to each other.  By the conclusion of the play, the characters have made choices as to how much or how little truth they are willing to sacrifice in order to achieve a notion of happiness. Human beings have a remarkable ability to paper over deep wounds such as grief, guilt and loss in order to survive them and the play interrogates what might happen for people in this situation when the cracks underneath this veneer are exposed and reflected back to them.

While grief, guilt and loss are not necessarily the natural basis of comedy, I wanted to position Cuckoo as a genuine comic drama. Sometimes many of the most unpalatable or difficult subjects are illuminated to best effect when seen through a comic lens. Comedy has the potential to facilitate access to the elements of tragedy in a way that an emphasis on the drama often does not. I hope this is the case for Cuckoo. The characters in the play, Mel and Leo, have experienced a significant loss and by leveraging the absurd and bizarre aspects of their situation within a non-linear frame, my hope is that the dramatic implications of this are brought into sharp relief. One of the intents of the play is to find humour in heartbreak without trivialising its foundation.

One of the most exciting elements of this production has been the opportunity to revisit the text in a space that is not a conventional purpose-built theatre. The decision to use a bar space “as is” has required a level of skill, inventiveness and tenacity on the part of the cast and creative team that has been exhilarating, enlightening and stimulating. Their commitment to trying things on the floor, making offers and interrogating the text has enriched the rehearsal process immeasurably.

I am grateful to Beng, Emily, Lauren, Scott, David and Luke for their beautiful work with this script. For me there is nothing better than collaborating with a group of talented artists who willingly bring their skill, dedication, creativity, good humour and generosity of spirit to the practice of making theatre. It really is just the best thing there is and I never take it for granted.

 

(L to R) David Kambouris, Luke Mason, Scott Gooding and Lauren Bailey in rehearsals

Director’s Note

Cuckoo is like a piece of chamber music. It’s tightly structured and very rhythmic, with interweaving and repeating patterns. It’s a heightened text that pushes against naturalism and is akin to a music score. The text is precise and concise, with nothing extraneous. Needless to say it’s a significant challenge for all and requires a cast who is alive to the music in the words and who can, in turn, bring it to life.

The writing is more than an exercise in form though. I’ve had the pleasure of following it since its early stages and it’s a play that has resonated with me. The facts are slippery in Cuckoo and the world is unstable. The ground shifts beneath the feet of Leo and Mel as they struggle to regain their balance and achieve a little bit of happiness. Jane Miller has empathy with her characters even as she excavates their pain, all the while maintaining an exquisite tension between the comic and the tragic, as the play flits between the present and the past. It’s a finely tuned balancing act.

I’ve directed this production in a lightly post-dramatic vein, to craft the piece for a pop-up venue and to throw all the attention back where it belongs: on the text and on the actors. It’s been quite a journey and I’m delighted to have shared it with Jane, our designer Emily, and Lauren, Scott, Luke and David, our talented and hard-working cast.

Production History

(L to R) Natalie Carr (Mel), Samuel Russo (J) and Matthew Molony (Leo)

Jane Miller wrote Cuckoo while undertaking a Master of Writing for Performance at the Victorian College of the Arts. It had a reading at the VCA in 2014 and its inaugural production in July 2015 at fortyfivedownstairs with the following production team:

Director – Alice Bishop
Cast – Natalie Carr (Mel), David Kambouris (Dan), Matthew Molony (Leo) and Samuel Russo (J)
Set design – Kelsey Henderson
Lighting design – Bronwyn Pringle
Stage Manager – Hayley Fox

The Unknown Union
6 pm for a 6.30 pm start
Tuesday 31 October to Friday 3 November
Wednesday 8 to Saturday 11 November
Level 1, 361 Little Lonsdale Street
Melbourne

 

City of Melbourne Creative Spaces

Cuckoo was developed in a Creative Spaces managed studio.
Creative Spaces is a program of Arts Melbourne at the City of Melbourne