NIDA MFA students immersed in Perth Festival

12 March 2019

Photo: Komische Oper Berlin's The Magic Flute at Perth International Arts Festival, directed by Suzanne Andrade and Barrie Kosky, animation Paul Barritt (1927). (Credit: Toni Wilkson)

NIDA courses offer many opportunities for students to travel and be immersed in a wide variety of dramatic arts. This year the Master of Fine Arts (Directing) and Master of Fine Arts (Design for Performance) and Master of Fine Arts (Writing for Performance) travelled to the Perth International Arts Festival in March.

The field trip included post-show performance analysis, classes led by NIDA Centre Directors Dr Julie Lynch, Dr Egil Kipste and Dr Stephen Sewell and Lecturer and Course Leader Directing Dr Benjamin Schostakowski, and sessions with guest lecturers such as Stanislavski expert Sharon Carnicke. The students worked on their own creative projects within their courses and at the same time attended 10 festival productions.

We caught up with MFA (Directing) student Miranda Middleton, who travelled to Perth for the first time.

What was your impression of the Perth Festival?

Photo: Komische Oper Berlin's The Magic Flute at Perth International Arts Festival, directed by Suzanne Andrade and Barrie Kosky, animation Paul Barritt (1927). (Credit: Toni Wilkson)

We saw an incredibly diverse range of productions, from Dimitris Papaioannou’s mind-bending work The Great Tamer, to a piece of physical theatre set in a mental health facility, to a reimagining of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. Although the productions weren’t always what we as individuals would have chosen, we had some great critical discussions in our performance analysis sessions. The whole experience certainly helped me to clarify the kind of theatre I hope to create at NIDA and beyond.

Which show stood out for you?

The show that really stood out for many of us was a highly innovative devised work called Lé Nør by the Perth-based collective The Last Great Hunt. Set on an invented island metropolis called Sólset during a period of severe drought and water rationing, the production used two roaming cameras and video projection to create the world of the play.

Through quirky vignettes, a stylised 1980s aesthetic and dynamic use of set pieces, the group of six actor/theatre-makers crafted a highly comedic, self-aware and poignant piece of theatre to remind us of the power of human connection in a world that is falling apart. I certainly left the theatre feeling more human than I’d entered it, and was truly inspired by the imaginativeness and unique flavour of this new Australian work.

What sort of ideas or notes did you bring back from the festival that you might use in your Directing?

Photo: Sunset at Perth International Arts Festival, Strut Dance and Artistic Director Maxine Doyle. (Credit: Simon Pynt)

My most significant take away from Perth was the importance of a director having a clear point of view in their production. The most cohesive and impactful shows we saw were those that were underpinned by a clear through-line and those that made a bold statement through their artistic choices. So that’s definitely something I’ll bear in mind throughout our various creative projects this year: if you don’t have an opinion, why be a director?

How does a field trip like this help your learning?

Photo: Swan Lake at Perth International Arts Festival, Director Michael Keegan-Dolan. (Credit: Toni Wilkinson)

Our trip to Perth Festival was such a wonderful opportunity for the directors, designers and writers to expose ourselves to theatre by artists that we haven’t necessarily seen before, and then bring all our discipline knowledge to the floor to dissect the shows’ strengths and weaknesses as a group.

As the trip happened early in the year, it was also a really valuable opportunity for our MFA cohort to get to know each other on a personal as well as artistic level, which I know will serve us all well throughout the year as we share ideas and collaborate on various creative projects. We certainly returned to NIDA with a stronger sense of connection to one another and excitement about the year ahead!

For more information about NIDA’s Master of Fine Arts Directing, Design for Performance, Voice, Writing for Performance or Cultural Leadership courses or to register your interest in studying in 2020 go to apply.nida.edu.au.