Published on July 17th, 2018 | by admin
World Premiere: CONTEST by awardwinning playright Emilie Collyer
Darebin Arts presents Contest, a premiere work by award-winning playwright Emilie Collyer set around Australia’s iconic female sport, netball. Directed by Prue Clark with movement direction by Nat Cursio and Alice Dixon, Contest plays at Northcote Town Hall Arts Centre from 25 July – 4 August.
Described by Collyer as a ‘netball dreamscape’, Contest is a sweaty play about the petty and the profound, the mundane and the mythic.
“Central to the work is that we are seeing middle-aged and older women on stage, a diverse group of women and one actor who uses a wheelchair. Physical work in theatre is usually performed by young, able bodies. Contest is a deliberate antidote to this pattern as we celebrate female bodies that have lived, been damaged, survived and are still going. This work aims to dispel the myth of female perfection,” says Collyer, who has also assembled an all-female creative team.
Drawing on the myth of Cassandra, the play is set at a suburban netball court where a new player has joined the team. Cass is an outsider with the gift of prophecy that others cannot or will not hear. The other women try to manipulate, coerce and bully her into conforming and still she refuses. The production begs the question, how might we interact with each other if competition is not part of the game.
Playing Cassandra is theatremaker, collaborator and actor Emily Tomlins, who was nominated for a Green Room Award for her performance in Collyer’s 2015 production, Dream Home. Emily is also the co-founder and Co-Artistic Director of award-winning independent theatre company, Elbow Room. Her stage credits include Niche, We Get It (Elbow Room/MTC Neon), You and Me and the Space Between (Terapin Puppet Theatre/ Darwin Festival), Cyrano de Bergerac (Sydney Theatre Company) and Edward Gant’s Amazing Feats of Loneliness (Sydney Theatre Company/La Boite).
Emily is joined on stage by Alice Ansara (Sydney Theatre Company, Griffin Theatre Company and Bell Shakespeare and TV credits Bogan Pride and Legally Brown); Green Room Award recipient and Helpmann Award nominee Natasha Herbert (STC/MTC’s The Father as well as Away, Anti-Hamlet, National Theatre’s Warhouse, The Misconception of Oedipus) and Sonya Suares, whose credits span Pinter, Puccini, Shakespeare and new Australian work across stage and film.
Rounding out the cast is actor Kate Hood, who is a wheelchair user and has experienced moving from being an able-bodied person to a person with disability, playing a character with a similar trajectory. Kate’s twenty-year career across stage and television has seen her perform in everything from classics to musicals including Prisoner, Gordon Frost Productions of Big River and MTC’S Diving for Pearls. She became a wheelchair user a decade ago and reinvented herself as a writer, director and theatre maker with disability.
Contest is Emilie Collyer’s third work presented through Darebin Arts’ Speakeasy, following two very successful seasons: Dream Home (2015, nominated for seven Green Room Awards) and Once Were Pirates (2014, highly commended Fringe Best New Writing). For Collyer, the netball court is a fierce female space and a rich territory to explore contemporary questions of competitiveness, control and care.