I’ve been devising theatre for half my lifetime. Devised theatre is a different beast to directing a play. When you’re directing a play the beginning point is the script and as creatives collect around a project we each take on different responsibilities to honour that script in its journey to the stage to share the work with our audience, day one of rehearsals usually begins with the actors sitting around a table to read the script, word for word from beginning to end. The devising process begins without a script – there may be fragments of scenes, notebooks full of ideas, songs, images, oodles of research, characters and themes that springboard artists into a creative process but much is unknown.
This is the thrill and terror of devising, collectively we willingly leap into the great unknown, not quite knowing what we’ll find. Xenides began as an idea in 2010 after Adriana Xenides had died, her death was reported on the news and the stock footage that was chosen to accompany the news item was of her spinning the letters to the phrase ‘Mutton dressed up as lamb’. This seemed cruel and mocking at a time that called for respect.
I knew that she deserved better, so a period of quiet musing and research followed. Since then, with the support of the Australia Council, work began in earnest – I knew that Adriana’s story was operatic in scale and the years that she reigned on The Wheel of Fortune are absolutely in my wheelhouse of pop – so it made sense that this would be a musical. Enter the extraordinary talent of Xani Kolac, who I’d had the pleasure of working with at Melbourne Theatre Company.
The joy of devising is that many minds are better than one and the actors that have brought these ideas to life are the four magnificent women that you’ll see on stage tonight – Adriane Daff, Katherine Tonkin, Hattie Marshall and Laila Bano Rind - early development conversations and improvisations involved Virginia Gay and Sophie Ross. Xenides is a tribute and a protest – Adriana’s life has become the conduit for us to talk with you about the roles that women play on stage, on screen and in life. We hope you have as much fun watching the show as we’ve had making it.