Pondlife Down Under

The past month I have been in Australia rehearsing simultaneously two actors for The Ballad of Pondlife McGurk. Renato Musolino is touring Adelaide and Marko Jovanoic left for Perth to perform a ten week tour of Western Australia.

The two productions are produced by Windmill Theatre in Adelaide and Barking Gekko in Perth. Rosemary Myers, the artistic director of Windmill, had seen the show at the Imaginate Children’s Festival and thought it would be a great show to tour schools and regional theatres across SA. She passed on the script to John Sheedy from Barking Gekko and they hatched the plan to produce the show which originally premiered in Scotland in 2008.

I would have loved for Andy Manley and Rob Evans (co-creators of Pondlife) to be in Adelaide with me but they were busy creating new work and besides the Aussies were excited enough to have a Scot, so perhaps adding a Welshman and a Brummie to the mix would have led to explosions!

I am sure the process of rehearsing two actors side by side has been done before but I was curious how it would work. Although I had loose rehearsals planned I was also waiting to see how the boys wanted to work. For the first week or so we worked together which meant we all got to bond as a group, then it felt right that we work separately, with Renato in the morning and Marko in afternoon. This suited them both as Marco was much more of a night owl and as Renato enjoyed an early morning yoga session he was fully alert by 10am.

Both actors were very different and had a different approach to the work; one took copious notes the other none, one was cerebral the other more instinctive and one was fitter than the other so the movement drama that is Mr Blue Sky resulted in a longer recovery for one of the actors…Both actors were however completely in love with the play and both had practically learned their lines before I arrived which meant they could put the script down and play.

We had a lovely rehearsal time which was hugely supported by our zen goddess stage manager Steph, our talented young technical buck Mark and overseen by the reassuring presence of Jason, Windmill’s production manager.

The shows opened last week and although I didn’t get the chance too see Marko in the Perth premiere he did manage to perform two preview shows in Adelaide so I know he is fantastic with an audience. And having spoken to him after his first handful of shows in Perth, I know he is the ideal person to rise to a three show day and cope with the threat of wildlife joining him as many of his shows will be in outdoor spaces. (I already know that two exotic parrots flew around him on his second day of shows!)

Renato in Adelaide is also wonderful and his audiences have been as mixed a crowd as I have ever experienced. We have had young people of all ages, hearing and sight impaired, special needs students as well as children who are learning English. One show had constant chatter as children translated to other children. The mix of nationalities was inspiring and it is reassuring to know that Pondlife works for all the audiences we have performed too.

Thanks to all at Windmill who have welcomed me to Adelaide and a big hello to John and Louise from Barking Gekko who visited Adelaide, saw the show and thankfully liked it.

Gill Robertson, August 2014