Unseen, unsung but definitely not unhappy, Jessie Deane is just one of an army of artists who blissfully work backstage and out of sight.
In theatre, Deane has worked with Urban Theatre Projects, One Extra Dance Company and is currently production manager for PACT youth theatre. For Mardi Gras, Deane moved from workshop volunteer to coordinating the last two parades. This is all since 1995 when she moved here from the UK, where she had worked in the community arts since 1983.
I tend to prefer to stay within theatre that’s got a community element to it, Deane said. I think that one of my skills is actually working with people. I really like the exchange of ideas in working with people from various different communities.
Deane’s latest project involves a high level of tact and diplomacy, with Song Of Ghosts a co-production between PACT youth theatre and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The show playfully butchers The Iliad to examine the poetics of war, with the help of a quartet of saxophonists and digital video projections.
Needless to say the show has a tiny budget. Deane has had plenty of experience in begging, borrowing and bartering -“ Mardi Gras proved a valuable and rewarding training ground. She admitted the last two parades have been the hardest. The most frustrating thing is you have to do things half-heartedly, you can’t do things properly -“ for all the energy and the love you’ve got, she said.
The demands on Deane for Song For Ghosts have been primarily technical, though some shows have drawn on her skills as a visual artist.
The weirdest object she’s ever had to create?
I think it was building and painting a replica of the Berlin Wall, Deane said. It was for a kind of corporate feel-good end-of-the-year team-building exercise -¦ Then we had to age it down to how it would look after years of wear and tear, which was great.
But then they brought in tanks and smashed the whole thing up -¦ I found it kind of offensive actually.
For Mardi Gras? Building ears that were as big as me. And the eyeballs, that was a bit odd too -¦ And lots of penises and lots of vaginas.
More Info Song For Ghosts is playing at the PACT Theatre at 107 Railway Parade, Erskineville, from tonight until 25 April. Phone 9550 2744 for bookings.
Also this week It’s a slow week for openings this week, with most of the attention centred on Judy Davis’s return to the Sydney Theatre Company in Howard Barker’s Victory. Tickets to the opening night are scarce as the play proved a popular choice with subscribers, what with its Restoration era setting and big name cast (including Davis and hubby Colin Friels). But the STC may be in for a backlash from blue-rinse attendees. Barker is the father of Theatre of Catastrophe, a school of thought with rules such as laughter conceals fear, there is no message and the critic must suffer like everyone else. He’s also not one to mince words. Notices on the posters for Victory warn of extremely coarse language, which might cover them for the use of the word cunt seven times in half-a-minute in the first act. The show also features detongued rapists, severed heads and masturbation -“ School For Scandal it ain’t. So for goodness sake book now (9250 1777) -¦ You may not know the name, but you’re sure to remember the voice. Gabby Millgate is presenting a comedy/vaudeville show on Tuesday nights throughout April at the Vanguard, a snazzy newish venue at 42 King Street, Newtown. Millgate has been acting and doing comedy for years, but is best known for saying you’re terrible, Muriel to Toni Collette in Muriel’s Wedding. To find out what else she’s got to say, book on 9557 7992 for the show, entitled Fair Dinkum All Sorts.