What happens when two Fringe World Festival 2013 award-winners get together and collaborate on a Fringe World 2014 project?
We’re about to find out, as we are less than a week away from the opening of Second Hands, a co-production of Little y theatre with The Blue Room, in association with PICA, as part of the Summer Nights programme. Little y theatre produced the winner of Best WA Performance at Fringe 2013 with their piece Public Space and this year they’ve teamed up with the much sought-after Jeffrey Jay Fowler, who wrote the Martin Sims Award-winning show from Fringe 2013, Minnie + Mona Play Dead.
Georgia King of Little y theatre and Jeffrey Jay Fowler agreed to meet with me and speak about the genesis of Second Hands, a play that explores the fascinating and disturbing idea of a society, just parallel to our own, in which people can choose a new pair of hands. The concept came from an acting workshop run by Little y at The Blue Room where a group of local actors meet once a week with talented local directors such as Fowler.
Apparently many a creative seed is sown in these Little y acting workshops which are open to experienced actors who are members of The Blue Room. In this particular case the mention of a handbag sparked something within the group and eventually led to the idea of changeable hands. King said the group was buzzing after the flow of ideas and that there was a palpable creative charge in the room. They knew they had stumbled onto something different and intriguing, so the group continued to explore the material until eventually there was enough there to begin to compose a written piece.
At some stage Fowler took over as dramaturg, director and writer of the official script, as many of the group’s original contributors had moved onto other projects and even other cities. A few collaborators stayed on to continue to devise and workshop the script in preparation for the show that will now be presented at PICA, and a few new folks came on board, bringing fresh blood to the process.
It’s a concept that could easily be classified as science fiction given its dystopian setting, however Fowler and King shy away from putting a genre label on the piece. They do however want people to know that it is a black comedy; many of the situations the characters find themselves in satirise our throwaway culture, our obsession with getting our ‘hands’ on new things, and our compulsion to find happiness through our material possessions. The piece also brings up moral issues about from where we get our goods and who is sacrificing their physical well-being to provide for our consumerist greed, whether it be young girls in Bangladeshi factories or hormone-riddled chickens in battery cages.
Moral and social issues aside, the way in which audiences will engage with the material is through watching how the characters deal with the problems that arise as a result of having changeable hands. There are finances to consider, as a new pair of hands doesn’t come cheap, so whenever money becomes an issue, relationships come under pressure. We can expect tightly written dialogue featuring a few twists of the verbal knife that might cut close to home for some of the audience. But that’s to be expected with satire and Fowler and company hope to strike the delicate balance between theatre that entertains and theatre that instructs, without becoming too overtly political or moralistic in the process.
This promises to be a unique and highly-anticipated entry into The Blue Room’s 2014 Summer Nights program. I asked Jeffrey and Georgia if they felt any pressure to live up to last year’s Fringe successes and both affirmed that they were not really concerned about that. They genuinely seem to be totally engaged in the present work with the objective of nurturing it and see it through to its fruition. No doubt this kind of artistic commitment has its own reward, it is also a testament to the success of the ideas that have inspired the work.
Second Hands runs from 18/2 to 22/2 at PICA at 6:30pm
Tickets available from The Blue Room website
Written and directed by Jeffrey Jay Fowler