BRAG’s guide to what’s happening in and around Fringe Festival Village Four: Surry Hills.
Stephanie Merriman’s toast. is a coming of age tale celebrating indecision. “Broadly, the play deals with the subject of decision making by looking closely at a generation that’s completely characterised by indecision,” says Merriman. “The main character is a woman in her 20s who’s stuck in a rut of typical Gen Y uncertainty… Celebrating baby steps is what toast. is really about.”
And taking baby steps is how it all began. “We started quite a while ago, auditioning about 60 actors,” says Merriman. “We knew exactly what we were looking for and the six actors have developed accordingly. Naturally, we wanted a youthful energy. We were looking for not only a group dynamic, but the lead actor had to encapsulate the main protagonist, and that’s exactly what we have.”
toast.’s primary topic appeals to a broad audience. “Yes we’re targeting Gen Y because the main premise is something that’s been characteristic of that age group, but the play is not just about being that age,” says Merriman. “toast. is concerned with finding those crossroads that can happen in everyone’s life, at any age.
“I think the audience will react to the leading character in one of two ways, either with empathy or annoyance. I think that will depend on what point the audience member is in within their own life. If she’s found to be annoying it’ll possibly be because the audience member may be in a place where they find themselves really stable, and really certain. My hope is that the audience will empathise with her.”
The play is also really relatable. “I wanted toast. to be relatable, but I especially wanted the dialogue to be something that was really natural. I didn’t want the dialogue to reflect some kind of other world that so often happens in theatre,” says Merriman. toast. is meant to make you laugh, but also meant to make you think.
“The main thing I want to draw attention to is the fact that a lot of people believe that change has to be overnight or the result of a massive life changing event. But often it’s those small and relatively insignificant steps that can be a mechanism for change,” says Merriman. “Ultimately, you can seek help from others, but change has to come from yourself. You need to open yourself up to the possibility of change before you can attempt to move on further.”
What about the experience of producing a piece of independent theatre? “Navigating independent theatre is definitely a learning curve,” she says, “I’m lucky I have such a dynamic team to get me through.” And how does a piece of warm crusty bread come to have the starring title? All will be revealed in the final scene.
BY LISA HAMILTON
Where: Old Fitzroy Theatre, Woolloomooloo
When: September 24-28
Lisa Chappell has transformed from a McLeod’s Daughter into a school teacher who’s being tortured by two cannibals. Yeah, that’s what we thought. What the? Chappell’s latest project FRED sees her play multiple characters in a story of survival against insurmountable odds. Can’t quite get your head around it? Let Chappell explain it to you.
“A one-woman show about cannibalism and ice cream,” runs the slogan. Explain. It’s a black comedy that follows the story of Deidre, an out of luck school teacher who lets two travelling salesman into her apartment – they turn out to be cannibals. They hold her hostage for two weeks and dine on her until Fred, Deidre’s imaginary friend, saves her with a particular brand of ice cream.
How has director Christopher Stollery’s vision help shape the show? Stollery has this amazing scientific brain, which brings real clarity to this subconscious upchuck (I wrote the play in six hours). His vision has helped define both the story and the many different characters I play.
How did you prepare yourself for the role? My main preparation has been learning the 10,000 words that I wrote – yes, I’m the woman wandering the streets talking to myself all the time. The characterisation process has been an experimental one on the floor with Christopher. He’s given me the freedom to try all sorts of ideas and thrown me many an interesting curve ball. His balls usually work.
What will the audience take away from the performance? According to Christopher, they will be entertained, surprised and intrigued – in that exact order. Personally, I’m hoping you come on this mad rollercoaster ride with me, have a good old laugh, then go debate the story within the story over drinks afterwards.
Where: Old 505 Theatre, Surry Hills
When: Until September 8