Gunn-Ho

Nicola Gunn hopes people will leave their expectations at the door. The Australian theatre artist has been lauded for her Fringe performances over the past decade, but nearly four years after her last Victoria appearance — 2007’s The Lost Property Office — Gunn is returning with a show quite unlike any other she’s performed before. At the Sans Hotel is a darker and more personal story.

Fringe fave delves darker

By Amanda Farrell-Lowl

Nicola Gunn hopes people will leave their expectations at the door. The Australian theatre artist has been lauded for her Fringe performances over the past decade, but nearly four years after her last Victoria appearance — 2007’s The Lost Property Office — Gunn is returning with a show quite unlike any other she’s performed before. At the Sans Hotel is a darker and more personal story.

“It’s the first show that I’ve made where I’ll almost admit that it might be autobiographical — almost admit,” says Gunn. “I think I’m exposing more of myself in this work.”

Sans draws from the story of Cornelia Rau, a German-born woman living in Australia who suffered from schizophrenia. “I don’t really know anything about her life — I guess that’s what is interesting, that nobody really knows — but in her late 30s, something happened. She went off her rails and disappeared into the desert,” says Gunn, who first read of Rau’s plight in 2004. “Nobody was looking for her; no one knew she was missing. Some months later, she turned up in a detention centre for illegal immigrants and no one diagnosed her mental illness.”

Gunn gravitated towards the story because it reflected what was going on in her life at the time, she says. “I was in a very dark place and lost as well. I think the stories coincided,” she says. “I was running away as well, running away to Canada because I had a mental breakdown. So it’s quite funny.”

Well, maybe not so much ha-ha funny. True, Gunn is known for her ability to bring a touch of humour to even the most harrowing tales, but she cautions audiences familiar with her previous work to approach it with an open mind.

“I think a lot of people expected a certain type of work,” she says of her recent performances in Toronto. “I even read some pre-press, which I found amusing, people saying, ‘Expect some great physical theatre and comedy.’ It’s like oh well, they’re not getting that . . . I find it remarkable that you can be pigeon-holed so easily. Making work is a very fluid process.”

Gunn feels that Sans — which has garnered much critical praise in her native Australia and Toronto — is representative of the work she wants to do as a theatre artist, and coming to terms with that made the creative process a lengthy and difficult birth.

“I was maybe at a point in my development as an artist where I was changing directions a bit and it took a few years for me to realise that,” she says. “It’s a difficult thing to admit. I think I was still trying to make work in a style that I wasn’t interested in anymore. It’s what audiences liked, but I wanted to make something different . . . something that was authentic and genuine.”

And really, what more could one want? M

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chelsey Moore’s character Chloe in the upcoming virtual reality game Altdeus: Beyond Chronos. Screengrab
Vancouver Island actress finds success in a virtual world

Black Creek’s Chelsey Moore lends her voice to a new video game set for release in December

Ceramic artist Darrel Hancock working on a clay jug in his home studio in Qualicum Beach. (Submitted photo)
Qualicum Beach potter Darrel Hancock celebrates 40 years in business

‘It’s wonderful to do what you love and make a living at it’

Artist Daniel Cline discusses his sculpture, Harmony Humpbacks, during the June 20 walking tour of Oak Bay’s 2019 ArtsAlive sculptures. Harmony Humpbacks was purchased by Oak Bay as the 2019 people’s choice winner and is permanently installed at the Beach Drive entrance to Willows Park. (Kevin Murdoch Photo)
Influx of donated art a ‘fantastic problem to have,’ says Oak Bay mayor

Oak Bay goes from zero to 10 permanent art pieces since 2015

Dover Bay Secondary School student Victoria Hathfield’s poem <em>Dear Santa</em> appears in<em> Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas is in the Air</em>. (Photo courtesy Darren Lee)
Nanaimo high schooler has first poem published in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’

Victoria Hathfield’s ‘Dear Santa’ appears in new Christmas-themed edition of anthology series

Nanaimo graphic designer Amy Pye has written and illustrated her first children’s book, <em>G is for Grizzly Bear: A Canadian Alphabet</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Nanaimo graphic designer releases first children’s book

Amy Pye teaches the Canadian alphabet in ‘G is for Grizzly Bear’

The Vancouver Island Symphony’s Back Row Brass Quintet – including trumpeter Mark D’Angelo, tuba player Nick Atkinson and French horn player Karen Hough (from left) – were scheduled to tour the Nanaimo area with Christmas Under the Big Tent, but the concert series has now been cancelled. (Photo courtesy HA Photography)
Symphony brass quintet’s Christmas concert series cancelled

Performances were to happen at venues in Parksville and Lantzville next month

The Sheringham Point Lighthouse, near Shirley. (Contributed - Lee-Ann Ruttan)
New book shines a light on Sheringham Point Lighthouse

Publication examines history, lightkeepers, and volunteer society

Victoria-based guitarist Eric Harper performs at the Port Theatre on Nov. 27. (Photo credit Tatum Duryba)
Classical guitarist to play at the Port Theatre

Eric Harper to play new songs composed during the pandemic

A sample of some of Lou-ann Neel’s jewelry.
Lou-ann Neel wins the Fulmer Award in First Nations Art

Originally from Alert Bay, Neel’s family is steeped in renowned Kwakwaka’wakw artists

I-Hos Gallery manager Ramona Johnson shows some of the paddles available at the retail outlet. Photo by Terry Farrell
I-Hos Gallery celebrates 25 years of promoting First Nation artwork

K’ómoks First Nation-based outlet has art from all over the country

Most Read