[THEATRE: Interview] Applespiel Make A Band…
Over the last two years, ex-Wollongong performance collective Applespiel have staked out a claim to being Sydney’s hardest-working, most prolific and entertaining theatre-makers, via a swag of works for Tiny Stadiums, Underbelly Arts, This Is Not Art, Next Wave, and Performance Space’s NightTime touring program, among other things (the apex of which was probably having their morality twister ‘Snail Piece’ programmed at Sydney Opera House’s Festival Of Dangerous Ideas).
They recently returned from presenting their Tiny Stadiums show Executive Stress/Corporate Retreat at Adelaide Fringe – and they’re about to take a reworked version of it to Edinburgh Fringe. In between, they’ve been madly working to get their new piece, Applespiel Make A Band and Take On The Recording Industry, ready for Performance Space’s SHOW ON season.
Even more than Snail Piece or, say, their Underbelly Arts show Awful Literature Is Still Literature I Guess, the concept of this show really is in the title – but why did Applespiel decide to form a band? Many of the collective’s rotating roster of members (for this show, totalling eight) already are or have been in bands, and all of them could relate to the adolescent fantasy of becoming a rockstar. “Playing gigs in front of our friends was never going to have the right effect – we needed to do a bit more,” explains Applespiel’s Simon Binns. “So we figured we could inhabit this form that is the music documentary, and by doing that we could kind of get up close to that [dream].”
“We’ve created a lot of work that looks at the processes behind things,” adds Emma McManus, citing Applespiel’s Morning Breakfast Commercial Radio Show (first performed at the You Are Here festival in Canberra and subsequently at This Is Not Art), wherein they examined the power of radio shock jocks through the format of their own live-to-air radio show.
For Applespiel Make A Band, the group will create a music documentary of their (fictional) band in front of the audience – live and in real time, including playing instruments, doing interviews, operating four video cameras, and splicing in a small amount of pre-recorded footage of a demo gig they did at the Lewisham Hotel (“people seemed to actually enjoy the songs,” Binns interjects. “We brought some not-metal to the venue”). Audience members can watch this unfurl on-stage, or watch the ‘polished’ on-camera version on screens above the stage. “We really are doing this almost choreographed dance where we are moving between cameras, moving between interviews, and moving between being in character and ‘in the band’ and back to being behind the camera,” says Mark Rogers. “It involves constant movement on everyone’s part to make it all work.”
The idea came from the group’s various experiences of watching music documentaries as fans. “The documentary is a method by which bands create myths around themselves,” Binns suggests. “It’s not just about their live shows and their music – they get to tell this broader story about themselves, about how they all grew up, magically met each other… that’s part of a band’s ‘success’ as much as anything else. And by inhabiting the form of the documentary and this myth-making machine, [we’re] inviting a critique of these people who we hold up as role models. We’re suggesting that if we put anyone through the right sort of machine, they can be a rockstar too.”
“It’s looking at why people have those kinds of fantasies,” says Rogers, “like the rock band idol phenomenon. It’s interesting to study. You don’t have to like bands to like this idea.”
What: Applespiel Make A Band and Take On The Recording Industry
Where: Bay 20, CarriageWorks
When: July 25–28