Mongrel

Costume and Set Designer and Maker

Mongrel is a VCA collaboration between Production, Musical Theatre and Interactive Composition students, where five groups are formed and each devise a performance from scratch and those performances are part of a single show. The theme each group created around was ‘Boundaries’ and we had creative direction from Maude Davey and Pete Farnam during the devising process. I was a designer for a group and we decided we wanted to explore the boundaries of the human body and mind.

We each had a lot of ideas and eventually one 20-minute show became five, four-minute shows where we explored different aspects about humanity. We agreed that we were more interested in performance art than narrative or musical structures, so we created a series of disconnected abstract pieces that challenged the performers and the audience.

Beauty: where we explored a person trying so hard to look beautiful that they are tightly constrained.

Mind: In a twisted setting, a person is being put through simultaneous challenges, testing their observational skills and listening to and responding to questions via headset.

Bound: Packaged like meat, humans lose their autonomy and are wrapped up in plastic. They must remain stagnant for twenty minutes during intermission and then struggle to break free when the audience returns to their seats.

Endurance: finally free, the performers dress to work out and are pushed to their physical limits through non-stop endurance challenges.

Senses: A short performance where a story is told but the audience loses the ability to hear and see the performers at various points and must connect the dots.

This was a really unique show that was really ambitious. Luckily, we were able to disperse each piece between other groups’ performance. I had a huge challenge of only having a $300 budget for the set, props and costumes for five separate shows. I had to make, borrow and thrift everything and it was very stressful having to do everything under budget. Despite this challenge, I still managed to ensure everything was aesthetically pleasing and functional and created a colour scheme per piece with what I found.

Another challenge I faced was what we needed for Bound. In rehearsals, the performers were using approximately 30m of cling wrap to wrap each performer. This was horrifying to me, as it would mean hundreds of metres of plastic would go to waste by the end of the season. It was a really strong concept for a piece that everyone loved, so I had to find a better way. I ended up making reusable rolls of plastic with thin, clear vinyl that detached from the roll with velcro. It was super cost effective, really durable and performed just how the cling wrap would have but made escaping more challenging for the performers which was dramaturgically better. We still used a metre of cling wrap over the heads of each performer, but that was much easier to accept. I’m really thrilled with how this turned out and that we avoided creating so much waste.

Many thanks to the collaborators in my group, Elizabeth Baker, Kaya Byrne, Kala Gare, Leah Humphrey, Thomas McGuane, Juta Pranulyte, Jaspar Robinson, Tigist Strode and Amelia Wilson.