For Anywhere Fest, directorial team Jennifer Bismire, Belinda McCulloch (film) and Richard Grantham (music) will stage Oscar Wilde’s The Nightingale and the Rose in the Powerhouse Labyrinth. I asked Ms Bismire a few questions about their Wilde adaptation.
Q. Describe your show in under 25 words.
A. Three artists across film, music and shadow-puppetry investigate Oscar Wilde’s parable of love versus knowledge amongst the historic ruins of The Brisbane Powerhouse.
Q. Anywhere Festival is about making art everywhere. What makes your venue unique?
A. The old Powerhouse ruins have been a perfect venue for us. A big part of this show is the idea that the new can support, develop and bring life to the old, rather than simply replacing it. The Brisbane Powerhouse as a whole works alongside this ethos very closely, but the outdoor space has this incredible sense of the old, the new and the natural colliding — as well as an extremely intimate feeling for such an open space. We would love audiences to feel surrounded by nature, art, new technology and history whilst still feeling as thought they’re sitting cross-legged, watching a show on their living room floor.
Q. If you could stage your show anywhere in time and space (after the Powerhouse, of course), where/when would you choose?
A. Against the wall of a crumbling cottage in a grumpy elderly forest — the sort of place that time forgets. Either there or in my living room when I was six.
Q. This show has everything, from shadow puppetry to a live soundtrack from Richard Grantham. What do you think Oscar would have thought of the atmosphere you create for his parable?
A. When Oscar wrote this story, the full power and meaning of the Nightingale’s sacrifice, the discussion of love versus power, art versus intellect, was heard through his words alone. 125 years later, audiences’ attention spans and response to storytelling have altered and developed (though you could argue for the worst).
As a group we’ve been fascinated by how many forms we have to saturate a contemporary audience with to get across the same story of a little bird and her love, which Oscar managed so powerfully with his words alone.
He once said, “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.” I’d hope he might see that sense of humanity — and his original intentions — in our piece … though depending who he’s sitting next to he might get distracted by the freedoms of our modern society … or think we’re all twats.
The Nightingale and the Rose runs in the Brisbane Powerhouse Labyrinth and Ruins from 9 to 18 May, 2013.