“It’s powerful, visceral and will be a work that will get talked about a lot throughout the festival,” explains FOLA curator Joseph O’Farrell. He’s currently in New Zealand touring with The Suitcase Royale before his imminent return to Melbourne for FOLA this week. “This work explores roles models, specifically through the experience of her niece”—who stars in Credible Likeable Superstar Role Model alongside Kimmings—“growing up in today’s world”; a world that appears superficial, contradictory and demoralising to most parents who are raising young girls and boys today. “I think the work is [going to be] really relevant to practitioners in Melbourne.”
Joseph O’Farrell is an ex-Deakin University student, where he met his fellow Suitcase Royale members, Miles O’Neil and Glen Walton in 2004 (but not 2010-addition Tom Salisbury). They created their first work Felix Listens to the World not long after, which received the highest Melbourne Fringe Festival award at the time. Afterwards, they packed their suitcases to tour North America for three months, where they discovered a near-fatal slash ‘terribly unhealthy’ affinity for bagels before they returned to Melbourne. They’ve been a visionary force of Melbourne theatre and comedy ever since. Therefore, it was hardly surprising that O’Farrell was selected as one of the FOLA curators.
“Being offered the opportunity to be part of a curating FOLA was a huge privilege. Especially being able to do it at one of my favourite venues in the whole world!” gushes Joseph. “It is an ambitious festival; a trail blazer that I believe will offer something different to audiences. Sometimes it sounds a bit lame to say “this is the now” but [FOLA] really is. This festival provides a snapshot of an emerging global art form [live art]. It’s young, it’s daring and it offers a different take on what performance can be.”
It’s this maverick perspective on what constitutes as performance—which, according to the Online Oxford Dictionary, means “an act of presenting a play, concert, or other form of entertainment”—that has this writer befuddled. Isn’t performance, itself, live? Therefore, how does live art differentiate from performance? This was a question that had to be answered (and one that you readers are probably asking yourself too).
“I find that everyone has a different answer,” muses O’Farrell. “My work with The Suitcase Royale paired me with the two kings of Live Art, Lone Twin. Through our collaboration I found out what live art was, and what live art means to me. To me, Live Art is a personable, shared experience. Whether in a room or in a community, it’s about stories and how they relate to the world around us, right here and right now. It’s a performance or artwork that captures a moment in time. Blink and it’s gone.”
Despite this simplistic definition, O’Farrell’s words have a deeper, philosophical meaning—that life, itself, is a form of live art. Life is an array emotional performances, experienced only once; an essence that the Festival of Live Art has captured in its program through the addition of UK favourite Sam Halmarack & The Miserabilities.
“The Miserabilities are one of the best bands I’ve seen in a long, long time,” enthuses the FOLA curator, who commissioned Sam Halmarack & The Miserabilities for the festival. “I saw this show at Forest Fringe in Edinburgh. It was the last show I saw, on the last day of the festival and it was just one of those moments. [As a curator,] I wanted to bring over a show that reminds us that performance art can be fun, it can be a show that we can go to a little bit tipsy with our friends, have a laugh and be brought together with all the strangers in [one] room. Also,” adds O’Farrell excitedly, “this is a great date night show! Guys [and] girls, out of all the shows, this is the one you can totally pash in!”
Other festival highlights include Live Art Dance Party, which Joseph curated alongside Arts House Associate Producer, Jackie Johnston, and Arts House Creative Producer, Angharad Wynne-Joones, the newest quirky cabaret from dissident diva Yana Alana and Tha Parana Tears Before Bedtime, Sarah Rodigari’s A Filibuster of Dreams, a production inspired by Wendy Davis’ filibuster at the Texas Senate last year, and FOLA club nights, which are curated by O’Farrell.
“Everyone will be receiving a personal letter from me in the post telling you to attend [FOLA],” teases the curator. “So, just come or you’ll really be letting me down, but most importantly: you will be letting yourself down,” and if that’s not enough to sway you to attend FOLA, think of all money O’Farrell spent on postage stamps.
BY AVRILLE BYLOK-COLLARD