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Hello my name is… Nicole Gunn, creator and actor

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Nicola Gunn is a Melbourne-based performance artist and theatre maker who makes emotionally and visually evocative work with subversive humour about the complexities and mysteries of everyday life. We sat down with her to ask some questions about her new theatrical experience “Hello my name is”

Hello my name is

Hello my name is

What can audiences expect from Hello my name is ?

A different kind of theatrical experience where they are implicated in the action. The audience are invited to interact with the space, but it is not mandatory. They can do something, they can do nothing. The room is called a community centre and the audience are cast as volunteers to help build a community. Hopefully the experience will be unexpected and quietly thought-provoking. The work will evolve considerably over the season and no two shows will ever be the same. It is very much a work-in-progress and perhaps always will be! This is the nature of the show, I think.

Can you give us a brief history of the development of the show?

I started developing this version of the show in small stages last year at Chunky Move and La Mama in Melbourne. As a solo performer I was tired of working by myself and wanted to assemble the largest cast I could: the audience. Originally the idea for the show came from 2 things that happened to me. Firstly I saw a group of viewers interact unexpectedly with an artwork at the Sydney Biennale and secondly, when I tried to introduce myself to the artistic director of a major performance art festival, he told me he wasn’t interested to know me because I wasn’t important.

What excites you about Hello my name is ?

The possibility of meeting strangers. The possibility that something might happen.

What do you hope audiences take away from the performance?

I hope it will be fun. It might make people re-think the way they interact with strangers.

Have you noticed any differences in the way  audiences respond to the performance?

I’ve only performed showings of the work and as such, there’s been lot of people I know in the audience. There’s always going to be some resistance. I expect that. The most important thing is that the audience are not asked to improvise or “perform.” Because of the kind of work this is, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. But, while I like to entertain and make people laugh, I never set out to make easy work.

In developing the show what has been the hardest thing?

Developing the show without an audience, without anyone to interact with! That is why this Blue Room season is so absolutely vital to the development of the work.

The easiest?

Finding objects to fill our community centre. We just use what’s in and around the building already or borrow things from people. We’re trying to use as much of what already exists as possible.

Can you tell us about the company Sans Hotel?  How you came to work together?

Sans Hotel is a collective of artists: designers, a visual artist and a conceptual artist. I have been working with these people for 4–6 years, making work and touring here and overseas. We decided to consolidate our practice and call ourselves a company in 2010. I met Gwen at La Mama in 2006 because I needed a lighting designer; I met Luke in 2008 at the VCA when I was doing my postgrad and he was studying Composition and I needed a sound designer; Michael is Gwen’s partner and has created our graphic identity. While we’re all somewhat established independent artists, as a company, we are fairly new.

I read Hello my name is combines “live performance with a companion online documentation and exchange”. What does this mean for the audience?

At the moment, it means little! To be honest, the 2 ideas are not completely resolved yet. As in the performance itself, the website will also be in development this month. Ideally it will serve as a performance archive of each event, as each event will be unique to itself. It is a means to exhibit and publish projects and exchange ideas that have come out of the performance. It is important that the community centre is created in collaboration with the community, so eventually we hope to receive donations to fill the space. It is important that the Perth community centre is different to the Melbourne community centre is different to the Wangaratta community centre. Maybe it will mean someone developing the website in exchange for me weeding their garden.

Who/ what has been your greatest influence in pursuing a career in the theatre?

I saw Les Ballets C de la B in 2000 at the Adelaide Festival and it blew my mind. It was also so same year I saw British company Ridiculusmus for the first time. There are so many inspiring performances I’ve seen in the 12 years since, but those 2 will always stand out as the catalysts. I don’t actually have any professional skills in anything else, so there was little option.

What do you do in your spare time?

My spare time is usually when I’m procrastinating. Read, swim, watch box sets, walk, always have coffee with friends, worry.

What excites you about the theatre?

Transformation.

Hello my name is

12 – 30 June 2012
The Blue Room Theatre

53 James St, Perth Cultural Centre, Northbridge
Tickets: $15 – $25

Bookings: blueroom.org.au or 08 9227 7005

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