A Conversation with Nicola Gunn: Melbourne performer returns to Victoria after 10-year hiatus for Intrepid’s 2018 International Presenting Series

Nicola Gunn’s show Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster plays at the Metro on Jan. 24

By Rae Porter

Melbourne based performer and dramaturg Nicola Gunn returns to Victoria after a 10 year hiatus as part of Intrepid Theatre’s 2018 International Presenting Series. Taking over the Metro Studio on January 24, 2018 with her 2015 work Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster; a whirling dervish of a performance, full of wit, provocation, humour and reflection. I had the opportunity to talk to Nicola about inspirations, vulnerabilities and keeping the conversation going.

MM: After watching the trailer for the Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster, I’m in awe of the physicality of the performance. Can you provide more insight into the process of creating a one woman show that fills the room?

NG: I never describe my work as one-woman shows. I’ve never liked gendering it in that way. I also don’t really even like solo theatre performance as a general rule. To have to listen to one person for an hour or more? What if they’re boring or self-absorbed? That’s anxiety inducing stuff. Honestly, it’s more perplexing to me than to anyone else as to why it is I continue to make them. I think it’s because I don’t think of them as solo works. I think of them as conversations; conversations with a group of strangers who only talk back in my imagination and perhaps theirs. So that’s the first thing, which leads me to the second thing: because they’re conversations, they fill the room. And I see the conversation as a separate entity: it neither belongs to me nor the audience; it is being held by the room. I also take up a lot of space, physically I mean. I tend not to stay where I’m supposed to, and you can take that in any way you like.

MM: You’re known for covering a wide range of themes in your performances, as well as linking the surreal and sublime with subversive entertainment. With a couple of pieces currently in development, who and what inspires you in your work?

NG: I’ve been trying to make this new work about SOMETHING IMPORTANT THAT MATTERS for about two years now. A lot of my work plays with this idea of autobiographical fiction as well as reflecting on art and my responsibility as an artist, so I was worried people were getting bored by that. I thought I should be looking towards the serious issues of our day…you know, climate change, the refugee crisis, Australia’s abhorrent detention centres in Nauru and Manus Island, the era of post-truth and so on. So for 18 months, I kept trying to make a work dealing with this stuff, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t find a way in. It was very difficult to admit that what is preoccupying me right now is Time and Ageing and within that, the time of being a woman who is ageing. Difficult to admit because I fear it comes across as vanity and perhaps I fear it is not relatable to men and perhaps I fear other women would wish I could think about SOMETHING IMPORTANT THAT ACTUALLY MATTERS. I guess I just make work about whatever it is I am interested in at the time. Visibly seeing myself ageing continues to shock me and horrify me. I want to understand where this shock and horror comes from, and why and what can be done about it. And so this is where an idea begins. Where it goes, who can say.

MM: The piece poses a philosophical question about our own social responsibilities. How important do you find it to keep challenging your audience to consider this?

NG: I don’t want to make work that is sermonising and I definitely don’t ever want to take the moral high ground because I am the first person to admit my many flaws and hypocrisies. It’s this very area that Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster navigates. I tend to use myself as an example; I share my moral failings, my human fallibility and my vulnerability to create a space for the audience to consider their own. This is important. I still maintain the idealistic and optimistic view that art can make space for social transformation.

MM: You’ve worked with Intrepid Theatre a number of times in the past – are you looking forward to touching down in Victoria again?

NG: I most certainly am! Canada was a second home for me throughout my 20s. I have so many dear friends I met over that time and it’s in Canada that I started to figure out how to make work. The stuff I make now is very different to those earlier pieces, but you can still see traces if you look close enough. I’ve always appreciated the sense of being on an island when I visit Victoria. For me, it tends to operate in its own time zone and I find that pretty relaxing. I can’t wait to see how it’s changed. My times in Victoria have always been marked by the bulk food section of the supermarket and consequently always getting hit hard at the cash register, Paul’s Motel, Lotus Pond vegetarian restaurant, Rebar and running along the coastline through Beacon Hill Park.

Just Posted

Local and international artists paint murals across Victoria

Sixteen murals are spread out across downtown Victoria as part of the ‘concrete canvas’ project

Pet-A-Palooza a good reason to ‘pawse’ this weekend in Victoria

Puppies, goats, wiener dog races and more on the grounds of St. Ann’s Academy Aug. 18-19

UVic art display showcases craft of bookmaking

Art of the Book 2018 is in the Audain Gallery at UVic from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting Aug. 11

Celebrate local food with Feast of Fields in North Saanich

21st Feast of Fields on Vancouver Island is at Kildara Farms on Aug. 26 from 1 to 4 p.m.

RIFFLANDIA: Local artists thrive under festival model

Bands like Current Swell, one of the 2018 headliners, made their mark at RAP

Updated: ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin has died

Publicist Gwendolyn Quinn reports Franklin passed Thursday at 9:50 a.m. at her home in Detroit

REVIEW: Ever wanted to be young again? Theatre Skam’s Concord Floral will make you think again

Strong acting in an interesting theatre space, writes Sheila Martindale

Brad Pitt says he has given Jolie Pitt millions since split

Actor Brad Pitt denies Angelina Jolie Pitt’s claim that he has paid no meaningful child support.

WINE LOVERS UNITE: Victoria festival offers numerous tasting options

Parkside Hotel and Spa hosting Victoria International Wine Festival

Farquhar Auditorium updates image for 40th season

The Farquhar at UVic ushers in new season Sept. 22

THEATRE SKAM: Young cast brings Concord Floral to life in vacant downtown retail space

Former office supply store a unique venue for telling mysterious tale of youth with secrets

5 things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Check out dragon Boats, artists, football and more

Most Read