INSIDE CRACK – Ripe for Performance

An Interview with Beth McMahon, Gabriel Partington and Michael Bevitt
By Alex Morris @Nemiwai

“It’s a very silly piece, hopefully more than silly; it’s not very often you get to see live oranges on stage, and people drowning themselves in orange juice,” actor and performance maker Gabriel Partington said of his upcoming performance at Crack Theatre Festival, For the Love of An Orange.

“[There will be] many many live oranges,” Beth added.

“If you like getting sticky or you have fondness for citrus and sugar…” Gabriel began.

“In your pants,” Mike interjected.

“Quite literally, there’s no metaphor,” Gabe finished.

Together the three call themselves The Indirect Object and are incredibly fun to speak with, as one might imagine of two puppeteers and an actor creating a fruity performance.

Beth McMahon is the director and creator of the project. Mike Bevitt is a puppeteer, and he and Beth have worked together many times throughout the years. The two have performed puppet shows internationally. Once in Tasmania they lived, slept and ate in a dementia ward for 8 days with the residents where they performed a puppetry pilot project.

Gabriel got involved with them six years ago, and he’s been living and working overseas as well. The three first met at university at Victorian College of the Arts. The three are based in Footscray in Melbourne (Beth said it’s the best place to live and they’re never leaving), and represent Crack Theatre Festival’s Setting the Stages artists from Victoria.

The actual show is a performance installation within a complicated built environment. Mike and Gabe are the two live performers, and they will be responding to an hour-long soundtrack and film projection.

“The live performance, the film and the music are all parts of the whole,” Beth explained

Their work is inspired in part by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges.

“The Love for Three Oranges is this absurd comical opera, and we’re now exploring ideas of obsession, repetition and hypochondria with a series of motifs including the orange,” Gabriel said of their upcoming work.

The original story is about a prince who’s dying of terminal hypochondria. A party is thrown to make him laugh, and later he must travel the world to find these oranges, they explained.

“Our piece looks at the hypochondriac prince and our overarching theme is liberation for surrender. Mike and Gabe swap roles, they surrender to his hypochondria, his body surrenders to his melancholy malaise state-of-mind, acceptance of his fate and eventual death, and he is liberated through that and through our magical orange juice,” Beth said.

Along with oranges, the show has puppetry.

“I’m stealing a line from Beth which is ‘Why puppets? Well why not?’ Because it’s our art form we’ve chosen we do our work with, we love it as a way of telling stories,” Mike said. “In saying that, hilariously, there’s not a huge amount of puppetry in the show.”

“I think we get a bit side-tracked with the word puppetry, we think it’s really defined, we think King Kong, Sesame Street, but it is much broader art form,” Gabriel said. “Puppetry allows the world to become more fantastical, it’s not defined by the construction and manipulation of a doll, it’s so much bigger than that.”

“The interaction between performer and projection, that’s also a form of puppetry. [This is] a really simple low-tech way of exploring the emerging art form of digital puppetry,” Beth added.

Mike said he’s particularly looking forward to a part in the performance when a cuddly toy has an orange placed in its otherwise empty head. The orange then becomes alive and juices itself.

The zesty performance will be held at The Edwards (148 Parry St) on Saturday at 4:45pm and Sunday at a time TBC.

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