It’s been a full year since I started touring Bomb Collar, my one-man science fiction cabaret musical. I’ve done the show in a storeroom full of pigeon feathers in Newcastle, in a 100-year-old puppetry theatre in Manila, in a live music venue in Belgrade and in a shipping container decorated in animal heads in a Melbourne park. None of these were as nerve-wracking as doing the show in my home-town.
The Public Theatre is the brainchild of Julian Hobba and his Aspen Island Theatre Company. A two-week outdoor theatre festival staged in a purpose-built temporary theatre space right outside the Canberra Theatre Centre, the whole thing was curated with an aggressive commitment to the experimental. I couldn’t resist the chance to perform there, even though it cut against the militant zero-external-tech approach I’ve taken to Bomb Collar so far.
Of course once I was into it the chance to augment my costume/instrument with full-blown theatrical lighting was wonderful. At this stage the script has become a sort of mental deck of cards that I can slightly reshuffle in the moment, and the festival techs did a miraculous job of improvising cues with me on the fly. I was the ‘after hours’ show on three consecutive nights and fluked some beautifully warm weather. The space, while much bigger than I’ve had for this show before, was still intimate enough for me to zero in on individual crowd members with ease. There was something great about having open sky above me while insisting to the audience that we were deep beneath the sea.
I’ve had a year to monkey with the performance and expositional challenges of the play and I can really see that work starting to pay off. The succinct description of the basic plot in this City News review gave me a huge sense of relief. Talking to people afterwards it seems that the (pretty involved) story world of the play is communicating clearly to people regardless of how many sci-fi reference points they might already have in their head. At least enough for people to be able to comfortably engage with the live character journey. I like to think that improvements in my acting have make as much of a difference to this as tweaks to the script.
Next stop for the show is New Zealand Fringe in February. Now that the story side of the work has leveled up somewhat the production team (Adam Thomas, Paul Heslin and Sam King) and I are keen to push the envelope with the nature of the Bomb Collar itself. If you missed this run don’t sweat it, the longer you take to catch the show the weirder it’ll be!
Photos by Luuuuuuuke McGrath!