We are old friends and became mothers within a few months of each other in 2018. We shared abstract yet lucid experiences across states and time zones. In the early days of parenthood there was something crude yet brilliant about the delirium and the downright righteousness of the parenting experience. This chaos seemed to mirror the state of the world: post-truth, populism, climate and pandemic denial and rampant consumerism. A world accelerating toward the greatest existential threat of our times – rising waters, drying lands, burning trees, chaotic storms and melting ice.
Emerging from this ‘rambling’ came ideas that spilled into seemingly chaotic vignettes – political, scientific, sociological, autobiographical, of the micro and macro catastrophes that the world keeps offering up. Due to the nature of making theatre in ‘unprecedented’ times, our timeline and our children, grew and grew. Since then, the work has grown to be a responsive catalogue built from text messages, conversations, articles and a shared love of Grand Designs, that now spans five years and will continue to grow for as long as the show does.
We always wanted to play with the autobiographical performance (authenticity feels important when the world is on fire) with a poetic, gestural and sonic/image-based performance style, to explore the absurdity and humility of the interior/exterior catastrophe of being a human. At the core of the work is the notion of parrhesia which is a kind of truth-telling that is risky and brave. We have come to realise that to tell the truth is an act of self-care. More and more, in a world where the notion of the actual truth is at risk, truth-telling is a radical act – a radical act of kindness.
Our thoughts have never been so huge, endless, random, chaotic and constant. Through this hectic grappling we were given a beautiful, relatable, accessible and humbling sense of the world as it is now. Interestingly, while the world is a very scary place, especially raising young children, we are filled with love. We have endless people to thank. Our team – Mark, Ben, Will, Catherine, Emma, Andrew, Amalia, PICA, The Blue Room Theatre, ECU and WAAPA, and the various eyes that have been our eyes when we couldn’t see it anymore. Thank you also to our friends and family that loaned us our chairs and have given us endless support. These past years would have looked very different without you. To our partners Mark and Federico, thank you for everything. To our children Frankie and Beniamino (Benji) – beacons of hope in a shitstorm of chaos – thank you for existing.
The hope for the future is seemingly endless – a future for the children, a future of children, a future that resembles a child. New beginnings… and bees. Lots of bees.
Minimal strobe lighting, some coarse language and references to countless catastrophes
- Co-Creators & Performers: Renée Newman & Ella Hetherington
- Scenography: Mark Haslam
- Composer: Ben Collins
- Design Associate/Stage Manager: William Gammel
- Movement Dramaturge: Emma Fishwick
- Script Consultant: Andrew Sutherland
- Costume Consultant: Amalia Lambert
- Technical Operator: Catherine O'Donoghue
- Special thanks to Kevin McCloud
- Acknowledgement of Country by Kylie Bracknell
- Additional field recordings by Renée Newman and Sam Newman, and ‘Vitti na crozza’ by Rosa Balistreri
Renée Newman is an educator and performance maker. Her performance interests/credits include traditional narrative (as an actor she performed and co-produced Those who fall in love like anchors dropped upon the ocean floor, 2014, 2015, 2016), site-specific performance and audio (walking) performance (creator, director and writer for Seeking Basic Needs and Other Tales of Excess in 2018 for PICA and Fringe World; Crossings co-directed with Natalie Allen, 2022, WAAPA), contemporary performance (writer, performer and producer Virgie, 2011, 2012; co-creator and co-performer with Ian Sinclair, Sleeping Beauty 2016; The day the sky fell down 2021 WAAPA) and dramaturge (I feel fine, 2019; slow burn, together, 2021; Beginning At The End (of Capitalism), 2021; From here together, ongoing). Renee is a senior lecturer at WAAPA at ECU including the Course Coordinator of the Bachelor of Performing Arts Honours and current Associate Dean (Research) WAAPA. She has published for Routledge and journals including Educational Philosophy Theory; Sustainability; Theatre, dance and performance training journal; Platform; and Performance Research.
Ella Hetherington is an independent multidisciplinary performance maker, facilitator and producer. As an actor and collaborator she has worked with Black Swan State Theatre Company, Barking Gecko Theatre Company, Perth Theatre Company, The Last Great Hunt, Sensorium, aMoment, Steamworks, Maxima, Emma Fishwick, Renegade Productions, Encounter and kdmindustries. Nationally she has performed and created works with Force Majeure, ERTH, Patch, Legs on Wall and the Sydney Opera House. International companies include La Fura Del Baus, Frantic Assembly and Look Right Look Left. Her work has toured throughout Europe, Canada, nationally and throughout regional WA with commissions from WASO (Girl with the Stone Toe, Beethoven), WA Maritime Museum (To the Rescue) and Black Swan State Theatre Company (Shadowboxing). She has directed large-scale performance projects in Kununurra, Jurien Bay, Christmas Island and with DADAA. As a director her work includes You Animal You (Force Majeure, Assistant Director), 100 Reasons for War (Actors Hub, Director), Dinosaur Zoo (ERTH, Associate Director), Boodjar (ERTH, Associate Director), Wonderbox (Sensorium, Rehearsal Director) and her work Golden Hour is currently in development (supported by Performing Lines WA) which will premiere in 2025. Ella is a casual lecturer at WAAPA, a teaching artist for BSSTC and WAYTCO and is a Blue Room Theatre board member.
Mark Haslam's practice is a hybrid of technical production, design, direction and performance, with a particular focus upon raw performance styles and the integration of media into contemporary performance. Through his company, kdmindustries, he makes electronic visual theatre that examines microscopic moments of cataclysmic change with a focus on raw, immediate performance styles. He has worked with many leading Australian and international contemporary arts companies and practitioners across performance, dance, music and visual arts practice and has toured over 50 works across four continents. He has built projects with Erth Visual and Physical, Performing Lines, Marrugeku, Branch Nebula, Stalker Theatre, Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio, The Farm, Legs on the Wall, Co3 Contemporary Dance, Force Majeure, Company B and Sydney Theatre Company as well as unique festival performances with artists such as Wesley Enoch, Nigel Jamieson and Shaun Gladwell. He has lit some of the world's top DJs (Fatboy Slim, Carl Cox, Sasha) and fashion houses (Alexander MacQueen; Gucci). He lives in Western Australia with a mermaid and their kid.
Ben Collins has a background in jazz performance and education, Ben has worked as a sound designer and composer in theatre since 2008. He has worked throughout Australia and toured nationally and internationally in bands both jazz and electronic. He continues to explore the use of technology in the creation of sound and music, and teaches design and audio technology at WAAPA. Ben is most interested in collaboration across varied creative disciplines, the use of field recordings in his design process and making music in larger ensembles.
Will Gammel is a visual theatre maker working in performance, design, and production. Gammel grew up on the land of the Bidjigal people of the Eora Nation, and now lives and works on Whadjuk Noongar Boodjar. Since completing his Bachelor of Performing Arts (Performance Making) at WAAPA (2021) Will has worked as a technician at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts PICA. As an independent artist, Will has designed for She’s Terribly Greedy (2022), Pull The Pin (2022) and We’ll Always have Bali (2022) at The Blue Room Theatre. For Pull the Pin he was nominated for Best Design at The Blue Room Awards (2022). He has performed in KISS club (2022) and the development of Common Ground (2022). In 2021 Gammel’s first major installation project Backwards Slowly premiered at The Girl’s School Fringe Hub. Gammel is passionate about responding to identity, place and lineage, while also examining arts as a life practice.
Emma Fishwick is a choreographer and artist who lives and works on Whadjuk Noongar Boodja, Western Australia. A graduate of LINK Dance Company (2010), Emma is currently a PhD candidate, a lecturer in dance history and choreography at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (Edith Cowan University), and a practicing independent artist. Emma’s research examines how interdisciplinary choreographic methods assist in re-framing and re-directing ways of seeing and being and explores how slow methodologies give corporal form to fleeting social phenomena. Emma has worked across various artistic platforms such as XR:WA and Co3 Australia’s virtual reality project FourbyFour (2020), digital exchanges with Dance Nucleus (2021), Seoul Dance Centre (2022) and Critical Path (2021–2022), International Young Choreographers Project in Taiwan (2019) and facilitated STRUT Dance’s annual site-specific program In-Situ (2016-2018). Emma was commissioned to present her work Slow Burn, Together as part of Perth Festival (2021), which received the award for Outstanding New Work at the 2022 Performing Arts WA Awards. This work became a springboard for the development of a new work, From Here, Together, as part of Co3’s IN.RESIDENCE program in 2022, supported by Performing Lines WA.
Andrew Sutherland (he/they) is a queer poz (PLHIV) performance-maker and writer based on unceded Whadjuk Noongar land. His work draws upon queer and intercultural ways of being, filtering autobiographical practices through the lens of pop-cultural, ecological and viral dramaturgies. He has contributed to the creation of many new works of theatre and performance between Boorloo and Singapore over the last decade and will next be directing Democracy Repair Services by Noemie Huttner-Korros at The Blue Room Theatre in November. Andrew’s debut poetry collection Paradise (point of transmission) was published by Fremantle Press in 2022, and in 2023 he was commissioned by Perth Festival to deliver the Randolph Stow Memorial Lecture. Andrew's poetry, fiction and non-fiction has been extensively published, and he has been an arts educator, sessional lecturer and mentor across a range of organisations including WAAPA, Black Swan State Theatre, WA Youth Theatre, Centre for Stories, Perth Festival, Strut Dance, Propel Youth Arts, M1 Singapore Fringe, SingLit Station, the University of Western Australia, and The Blue Room Theatre.
Amalia Lambert is an emerging set and costume designer. Graduating from WAAPA in 2019, she was awarded The David Hough Award for Outstanding Achievement in Design. Amalia’s outstanding designs for The Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie (2020) earned her the Performing Arts WA Best Costume Design Award in 2021. Most recently her work includes designing the set and costumes for Wonderbox with Sensorium Theatre at the 2023 Perth Festival, as well as Mary Stuart at the 2022 Perth Festival alongside Bruce McKinven. Amalia has collaborated with theatre companies including Barking Gecko, Performing Lines WA, The Last Great Hunt, Kabuki Drop, Sensorium Theatre, and LINK Dance Company.
Catastrophes is commissioned by PICA and supported by PICA’s Art Commissioners and the WA Government through the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries. Initial development supported by The Blue Room Theatre through its Winter Nights 2020 season, supported by Minderoo Foundation. Subsequent developments supported by the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries and Edith Cowan University.