World Problems at fortyfivedownstairs
Written and performed across Melbourne and Amsterdam by multi-award winning artist Emma Mary Hall, World Problems is a funny and poetic reflection of our monolithic, interconnected world. Inspired by the German pop-historian Oswald Spengler, the feminist theorist Donna Haraway, and the multi-million-billion-trillion lifeforms living and dying together in our biosphere.
Rosie chats with artist Emma Mary Hall about this exciting new work and how it starts a conversation about the future of our planet. Read the full interview below:
Emma Mary Hall
World Problems makes its Australian premiere at fortyfivedownstairs after successful development showings in Amsterdam. Why did you decide Australia was the next step for this work?
This show was always a co-production across two cities; Melbourne is my home and I'm collaborating with Melbourne artists. But Amsterdam was the city that inspired and germinated the original script: World Problems is an attempt to articulate some universal truths in the identity-politics era, and Amsterdam is the perfect city for experimenting with this. Around half of its population come from somewhere else. In the early development season, we worked with a Serbian composer and a Dutch-Canadian set designer. So the team itself was global.
In the description of World Problems it says “Each night, we build a world. Each night, we start again from scratch.” How has this concept informed your work, and how do you hope the audience will be impacted by it?
When I first started thinking about staging this script, I was very passionate about collective action. So I was experimenting with ways that the audience could be involved physically in building the world of the show. The more we researched, the more we realised that the words alone do so much of that work. So it is not an interactive or site-specific theatre work; it's very much a spoken work piece. I want to allow audiences to feel anonymous and voyeuristic.
World Problems is the third piece you’ve written, succeeding Melbourne Fringe hits We May Have to Choose and Ode to Man. Can you talk about the inspiration behind your works? Do they have a common theme?
I guess all of my three solos place myself at the centre of my world. By which I mean, while I talk about global or national political issues, I always talk (consciously – and explicitly) from my own flawed and incomplete lived experience. I use the term autofiction to describe what I do: it's truthful and autobiographical, but not always accurate and complete.
In world problems, I reflect on all of the memories that situate myself in the wider world: memories that span from racism I witnessed as a very young child, to conflicts I've experienced in the past week. I'm interested in that connection between the private and public, the personal and political.
World Problems features interactive post-show workshops and discussions on multiple evenings across the run. How do these tie into your work?
I'm really passionate about the role that theatre can play in building a sense of community. Just because I'm not making interactive theatre, doesn't mean the experience of audiences should be inert and passive. One of the big influences on this project is Naomi Klein's book on climate change This Changes Everything (2014). She talks about how the crisis of climate change provides a new and urgent opportunity for people to work together to demand a new future. And to help achieve this, she has created a public impact strategy released alongside the book and documentary, which provides resources to enable communities to get together and articulate new ways of being in the world.
We want these workshops (which are very short and casual) to help audiences to get active in similar ways – they can walk onstage and claim it as their own, while learning some hands –on tips for a more ethical way of living: futurist gardening, greening your home (incuding rentals) and shareholder activism.
Why should our readers come and see World Problems? What can they expect from this show?
It is a behemoth of a script (I share over three hundred personal and global memories), which is truly unlike any scripts I see performed on Australian stages. And I'm working with an incredible design team: SS.Sebastian (composer) recently finished a national tour playing the songs of Twin Peaks with the original cast; and Fleur Dean (set designer) has had an incredible career in the performing arts working with amazing companies such as Big Hart. Piper Huynh is the most kickass Stage Manager you will ever meet and Rachel Lee is an extremely talented lighting designer. The piece is confounding, but hopefully also moving and provocative. I can't wait to find out what people think of it!!!!
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
Favourite production you have ever seen?
Einstein on the Beach
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
Adelaide, to visit my family and get some home cooked meals. I'M ABOUT TO OPEN A SHOW. I'M EXHAUSTED.
Dream show to create?
A solo performance about global politics. Wait…
Plays or musicals?
I LOVE JUDY GARLAND.
What’s next for you after this show?
I'm working on a new show Hurricane, with Vidya Rajan, which will be doing a development at MetroArts in Brisbane in July.
World Problems opens at the fortyfivedownstairs theatre in Melbourne on March 13 2019. You can get your tickets here.