Thursday, 3 August 2017

Jungle Dramaturgy: Declan Greene @ Edfringe 2017

Lilith: The Jungle Girl
by Sisters Grimm

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 3-27 August Traverse Theatre 

A wild, satirical look at ‘civilised savage’ narratives from Australian queer theatre makers Sisters Grimm, featuring trailblazing actor, activist and MC Candy Bowers (Hot Brown Honey)

WINNER: Best New Writing, Best Ensemble and Best Set & Costume Design at Australia’s Green Room Awards

When a wild girl is captured in the rainforests of Borneo, all of Holland is set abuzz. The year is 1861, and pioneering neuroscientist Charles Penworth is called upon to raise the child from the pit of her animal nature. But who, indeed, is the real savage



What was the inspiration for this performance?


It was a two-fold thing. We wanted to make a show that parodied the ‘civilised savage’ genre of cinema – but soon realised these films contain a lot of interesting and very contemporary questions.

At heart, most of these stories – like Pygmalion, The Elephant Man, Tarzan – are allegories about assimilation, and the right of ‘outsiders’ to retain their identity. This felt very timely, given all the stuff that’s happening in the world right now... Brexit, crises around refugees and immigration, the rise of Trump, the rise of identity politics, and the increasingly partisan way we seem to talk about ideas of being and belonging. 



Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

Well, it probably depends on the performance. We’re not fans of theatre that pushes ideology on an audience: polemic work, with readymade ‘solutions’ to the world’s problems.



We’d rather our shows ask questions – with the aim of sparking conversation in the foyer afterwards. If that’s a discussion about the politics the work contained – great.

If it’s a conversation about why anyone would waste their time making something so stupid – also great. As long as they weren’t bored.


How did you become interested in making performance?


We’ve both always loved theatre – but are really conscious of the not-always-wrong stigma it holds as something stuffy and elitist and expensive.

We started making cheap, stupid, gross little DIY shows in carparks and lounge-rooms, with the aim of making theatre that was as wild and accessible as live comedy or a gig.

We wanted to make theatre for people who hate theatre, and even though we perform in more traditional venues now that’s still what we’re trying to achieve.


Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

Sort-of. We start out by writing a story that follows the rules of these films as much as possible – so, with Lilith: a young wild girl is found in a jungle, and is then brought back to civilisation in order to be socialised... But then, at a certain point, we start to strain and break these rules. Which is why in Lilith, you’ll see talking lions, a wearable windmill, and a ‘wild girl’ played by a 35-year-old naked man covered in pink slime.


Does the show fit with your usual productions?

Well, most of our shows are about picking apart a film genre. In the past we’ve done the backstage melodrama, like All About Eve; the Southern antebellum epic, like Gone With The Wind; the evil-child film, like The Bad Seed. This time we decided to take on the ‘civilised savage’ movie – classic cinematic masterpieces like My Fair LadyThe Elephant Man, and She’s All That. So yeah, it’s another step in that sort-of exploration.




What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Lilith is first and foremost a comedy, so of course we hope our audiences laugh themselves stupid. But we also hope it provokes them into looking at the world a little differently... Be that a new perspective on a political problem, or just remembering that theatre doesn’t have to be dry and respectable.




What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?


We walk a fine line in our shows between parodying the genre we’ve taken on and paying homage to it. Like: the stories we tell are extremely stupid and gratuitous and clichéd...


but we also want people to genuinely care about the characters and the world we’ve created....

but we also want people to laugh at how ridiculous they are... So it’s a difficult balance, which is hard to get right – that’s why we’re glad to have already done a season of this show back in Australia.


Australian queer theatre-makers Sisters Grimm present a wild, satirical clusterf*ck of ‘civilised savage’ narratives. 

Featuring trailblazing actor, activist and MC Candy Bowers (from Fringe 2016 hit Hot Brown Honey), Lilith: The Jungle Girl takes the audience deep into the thorny political jungles of colonialism, individualism and assimilation.


Renowned as one of Australia’s most exciting independent theatre companies, Sisters Grimm (Ash Flanders and Declan Greene) has developed a cult following for their fiercely smart, anarchic comedies that prize liveness and accessibility. 

Initially creating work in found spaces – car parks, lounge rooms and backyard sheds – they have gone on to make shows in collaboration with many of Australia's leading theatre companies, including Malthouse Theatre, Belvoir, Melbourne Theatre Company and Sydney Theatre Company.




Lilith: The Jungle Girl combines theatre, lo-fi animation and live-art to create a darkly comic allegory - splattered in hot-pink slime. Think The Elephant Man and Ladette to Lady, via Tumblr.com.

Ash and Declan say: “We wanted to raise questions about borders – the political, the personal, and the social – in a world that seems to increasingly demand their rigid, violent enforcement. We also wanted to cover a naked man in ridiculous pink slime and put a windmill on his back because LOLZ. Behold: Lilith!!


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