Melbourne Fringe 2015

The Multiple Meanings of Life: an interview with Zachary Pidd, Melbourne Fringe 2015

0 Comments 20 September 2015

In Smithereens the VCA Acting Company 2015 will answer the ultimate question: what is the meaning of life? It is difficult to find a definite answer to this question, perhaps because there are so many different aspects of existence. When searching for the answer, you usually have to look at it from different angles; in terms of love, nature, the universe, God and, ultimately, death. Smithereens will dive into the complex world of each factor individually, in order to interpret and analyze the question from different viewpoints, and collate a collaborative response.

Smithereens is one of the shows produced by the VCA Acting Company as part of their FRISK Festival. It is actually a collection of productions, as five members of the company, Zachary Pidd, Joshua Monaghan, Charles Purcell, Rosie Clynes and Rebekah Robertson, will each write and direct a single show focusing on different factors of the meaning of life.

“One focuses on death, one on love, one on the origins of the universe, one on nature and one on God,” Pidd explains.“Every night, we each pitch our shows to the audience  and they have the opportunity to vote for which show they would most like to see. What follows is the process of us attempting to build the chosen show there and then.”

Each of the five shows will incorporate scripted and improvised elements, with the improvisations developed on the night.

“The conceit of the show has obviously posed a huge challenge to our design team, too,” Pidd says. Set designer Anastassia Poppenberg, costume designer Eleanor Hutchinson, lighting designer Michelle Thorne and sound designer Celine Khong have had to design five shows in the time it usually takes to design one. “But they’ve been extraordinary, and their work has been essential in uncovering how five very eclectic shows can co-exist in a single space.”

Originally the company was planning to do a single show discussing the meaning of life, but such a broad question resulted in a broad response.

“We each had a very different take on it, artistically and philosophically, and after many arguments, raised voices and slammed doors, we decided we simply couldn’t work together.”

So Pidd, Monaghan, Purcell, Clynes and Robertson wrote their own shows, which they will direct, but they all perform in every show, making it a very collaborative process.

“Each of us has had total creative control over our own show,” Pidd says. “We’ve each had a fifth of the rehearsal period to write and direct the work.”

Failure has also been a driving force in the production, according to Pidd. “We were inspired to see how far we could push failure in performance, and different ways failure can manifest theatrically. By making the contract that exists between performer and spectator literal, and giving both of these figures democratic responsibilities, the political metaphor becomes apparent. As theatre makers we were very excited to see what happens when five forms of theatre are smashed together, which may or may not happen depending on how malicious we decide to be to each other on the night.”

Smithereens will run from the 24th-27th of September at the Victorian College of the Arts, 28 Dodds St, Southbank. Book tickets at or call (03) 9660 9666.

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