Perth’s theatre scene is full of enterprising people who want to work on creatively fulfilling projects that allow them to produce cutting-edge works, maintain artistic control, and provide Perth audiences with quality, unique productions.
This week in the spotlight, Cicely Binford catches up with John McPherson and James Marzec, the dynamic duo behind the brand-spanking new, world premiere musical being produced in Perth called A Raging Election.
These guys have taken what they learned from writing and producing their first major musical in 2012, the barely-pronounceable Lawyers and Other Communicable Diseases, and have sharpened their mighty swords (and by swords, I mean their pens, of course) to bring us an completely topical, satirical musical comedy set in a newsroom during a leadership spill.
James and John have been collaborating since they met at UWA’s University Dramatic Society (UDS) in 2005; John was a music student and James was a law student. Their first musical collaboration was Fresher! The Musical in 2007, which was followed by another original musical Bullet Betty Vareska: The Directive of Six in 2008. After this Marzec probably got tired of McPherson’s need to turn everything into a song (I’m just guessing) and struck out on his own with a straight play called Catastrophe and Cold Tea, which Marzec describes as an English farce. Marzec and McPherson then teamed up again for another musical in 2009 called Greenwick’s! which was set in a supermarket.
Eventually James and John graduated and regrouped in 2012 when they founded their own non-profit theatre company called Showroom Theatre. Their inaugural production was Lawyers and Other Communicable Diseases, a musical satire about a couple of young lawyers caught up in a scandal, which they mounted at the main stage of Subiaco Arts Centre to full houses. After that successful venture Marzec directed another straight comedy/drama that he co-wrote with Kristian Barron called Wedlock, which was about a wedding party in crisis.
In many ways these two remain happily heedless of trends and fashions in Perth’s independent sector at large, and are content to do their own thing. Their main focus is entertaining people and they’ve been so busy and successful at it that they haven’t had time to even really consider their place in the independent theatre world. They have had a ready-made audience to be found amongst their fellow UWA alumni and UDS members, and have only just begun to look beyond that into the broader arena of Perth’s theatre market.
As they continue to hone their craft they are eager to open up their work to new audiences and look for further support from the community. When they first began approaching established community theatres a few years ago, they met with resistance because their original material hadn’t gone through a traditional work-shopping and development process. From this came the impetus to establish their own production company and so they put up their own money and hoped for the best.
The secret to their success, I believe, is their strong bond as a writing team. In conversation they’re verbal sparring partners and although Marzec (who is also currently participating in Black Swan Theatre’s Emerging Writers Group) writes the jokes, he has a moderately serious and thoughtful demeanor that the gregarious and slightly zany McPherson bounces off. They’re a bit of an ‘Odd Couple’, the lawyer and the music teacher, but it works and they confirm that collaboration comes easily to them.
For their current show this ease of collaboration must have come in very handy, since the events which the fictional work depicted actually became an Australian political reality. They had planned for the show’s run to coincide in with the impending election, but because of the leadership spill that took place just before the its intended opening, they had to very quickly rewrite much of the material and the show got postponed until October. An apt example of life imitating art if ever there was one.
For a sneak peek at what to expect from this political and media satire, have a look at the fake news clips they’ve been running in the lead-up to their opening:
A Raging Election runs from October 22 – 26 at Subiaco Arts Centre, curtain at 7:30pm
For more information visit: http://www.facebook.com/ShowroomTheatre
For tickets go to Ticketek: http://www.showroomtheatre.com.au/