BRAG’s guide to what’s happening in and around Sydney Fringe Festival Village Five: Glebe and Chippendale.

The Catastrophists

A catastrophist is someone who makes the worst of a bad situation, a person who focuses on the negative, over-thinking and over-analysing every situation until it takes on the portions of a major disaster. This term applies to young Sydney-based playwright and actor Jordan King-Lacroix, but rather than wallow in his own anxiety, he decided to make the best of things, and create a work of theatre inspired by his tendency to blow things out of proportion. “Writing The Catastrophists was a way for me to let off steam,” he says, “but really, I just wanted to make people laugh. I’m presenting them with a work that says ‘hey, this is my particular type of crazy, and maybe you have some of that same crazy in yourself’. That’s a helpful and healthy thing to be able to do.”

The show, one of the centrepieces of this year’s Sydney Fringe Festival, tells three distinct stories about people in times of crisis. The first of these concerns a character named Trevor, played by and possibly maybe based on King-Lacroix himself. “We see him at the start of the show, in the middle and at the end,” he explains. “He’s just been on his second date with a girl and she hasn’t called him back, so he leaves a series of phone messages for her, each one more desperate and angry than the last.” The second story is about a socially-inept man named Jack, who finds himself stuck in an elevator with his crush, Rachel. The third and most bizarre tells the tale of a deadly assassin named Desiree, who experiences a crisis of confidence in her work, and goes to see a mob psychiatrist for advice.

It’s The Catastrophists’ unconventional approach to narrative that makes the show truly unique – in between each segment of the show are dance sequences, which tell the stories again using movement rather than dialogue to emphasise the themes and emotions. The show’s co-creator Naomi Hibberd worked on these. “Naomi spent five years working with various dance companies in London,” King-Lacroix explains, “and came home with this desire to liven up the dance scene in Australia. At first, the idea was to have the dancers perform along with the actors, but we realised that would be too distracting. We decided instead to give the dancers their own scenes, where they could offer their own interpretations of the different story beats.”

When asked if he has any final word on the show, King-Lacroix tells me that he and Hibberd are determined to pay their performers fairly for their time and effort. “That’s something that’s incredibly important to us,” he says, “because a lot of performers in Australia are expected to work for free. There’s this constant refrain of ‘there’s no pay, but it’s great experience’. We wanted to stop that.”

BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN

What: The Catastrophists

Where: Reginald Theatre at Seymour Centre, Chippendale

When: September 17-21

Past Tense

What do you get when you combine a defeatist heroine, an agoraphobic narrator, a violent roommate and a narcissistic ex-boyfriend? You getPast Tense, a romantic comedy looking at the complex relationships between friends, lovers and their experiences past and present while they keep a close eye on their uncertain future. We caught up with the play’s Narrator, Joshua McInnes, ahead of opening night.

Summarise Past Tense for us. Past Tense is a really sweet, hilarious love story. Friends, lovers, exes; the play has all these characters who romanticise their past and are terrified of their future. They’re all interested in changing each other, but not themselves. It’s a new, totally relatable and completely insane story.

You’re Past Tense’s Narrator. What’s he like? Well the Narrator’s job is to perform, so I was able to draw on my own experiences. He’s been around for hundreds of years doing this, yet treats each story like it’s brand new. He’s both the old man, and the excited kid. Not to go all Daniel Day Lewis on you, but I did keep a book with all of the Narrator’s thoughts and feelings about the other characters and their story. You should see what he wrote about Terry.

You perform alongside Liz Jameson who plays the part of Terry. Tell us about the relationship between your two characters? The Narrator and Terry drive each other insane. He wants her to do better, but criticises everything she does. She just wants to be left alone to eat and sleep. That dynamic totally changes though. Things get crazy.

Emerging theatre companyAwkward Duck helped develop Past TenseWorkingwith Awkward Duck has been amazing. I’ve been able to explore some weird, fun ideas, and collaborate with some very talented people. Our director, Kara Schlegl really pushed me to test myself and experiment with my performance.

What: Past Tense

Where: Reginald Theatre at Seymour Centre, Chippendale

When: September 17-21

The BRAG is the official street press partner of Sydney Fringe Festival 2013.

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