Cousin Tara chats bringing Wukkas to the world wide web!

Cousin Tara (aka Tara Leigh Dowler) was meant to delight audiences at Melbourne Comedy Festival this year… but Coronavirus had other ideas. Instead, she’s taking Wukkas On The Web for all to enjoy from the comfort of their couches!

Tara Leigh Dowler | Photo by Alexis Desaulniers-Lea

Wukkas is Tara’s second full-length solo show, and it was nominated for Best Cabaret at Hobart Fringe at the End of the World ([email protected]) in January. Her debut show, Taranoia, was a hit at both the 2019 Melbourne Comedy Festival and Spirit of the Fringe at [email protected] When not being a hilarious solo act, Tara makes up half of acclaimed comedy duo Pink Flappy Bits, appears regularly with The Spoon Monkeys, and tours with Two Little Dickheads.

With the show streaming next week, I had a quick chat with Tara about what wonderful wackiness the world can watch in Wukkas On The Web!

Where did you get the inspiration for the show?

I’m really interested in looking at mental illness through the lens of culture and society, Johann Hari’s book Lost Connections dives deep into this. I think many symptoms of anxiety and depression can be accounted for in what our society asks of & expects of us as ‘producers of profit’. Growing up in the music and theatre industries, I’ve often felt the impetus to compete, to pursue success for its own ends, as well the pain of perceived insufficiency, or straight up failure. ‘No wukkas’ is my common mantra, but it’s ironic, because I do, in fact, have many wukkas, as do many people in my community, and I’m beginning to think it’s not all ‘in our heads’?

Could you tell me a bit about your devising process?

Cousin Tara is a songstress, foremost, so I often begin crafting a show around the music, or an idea for a song. Wukkas started with a song about an anxious platypus I’d written for my previous show, Taranoia, and became the thesis for Wukkas. Pip the platypus worries a lot and asks the audience how he is meant to successfully medicate himself for anxiety when his environment is so hostile to him. Some of the songs are incidental, like strange stories or baffling conversations that just thrust themselves into song form, such as ‘Little Fishies’ or ‘She’ll Be Right’. Then there’s a one-minute folk-punk number called ‘End of Days’ which didn’t get properly written until the night before filming but is probably as thematically important as ‘Pip The Platypus’! I also keep a document, now impossibly long, that is filled with stories and rantings and jokes that I often come back to when something clicks. There’s a story in the show, for example, about an Eid luncheon at my old workplace that became a strange, self-deprecating metaphor for white self-congratulation and the compounding anxiety of social expectation.

What has been the most challenging part of adapting your show for a digital space?

Definitely the stand-up and stories. I say challenging, but that was also what was most enjoyable. It was challenging because adaptation necessitates change, but it also meant opportunity, so the pay-off for certain jokes is actually greater than it would be if I was just expositing on stage. We got to create cutaways and visual gags where there were none before.

Tara, Nesceda Blake and Rohan Wilksch | Photo by Alana Coventry

And what has been the most exciting?

Creating music videos for ‘Friends’ and ‘Koali’, two songs from the show. Rocking out is my favourite thing to do and working with pre-recorded vocals and backing is liberating for this medium. Working with my incredible team, Elizabeth Brennan, Alia Vyrens and Pat Pierce on the text, my performance and the film has made me so happy.

Why should people tune in to Wukkas on the Web?

  1. Wukkas on the Web is totally cathartic.

  2. It’s full of ridiculously catchy, original songs performed by a multi-award-winning singer-songwriter.

  3. It’s also a great pick-me-up for your mid-week slump.

WUKKAS ON THE WEB will be streamed on Youtube on ​Wednesday 24 June at 7pm. Click here for the link.

The performance is free, but viewers are encouraged to contribute a pay what you feel donation at the MICF website

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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