Bridget/Pepper: From the Streets to the Stage
A NEW PLAY BLURS THE LINES OF REALITY FOR BOTH AUDIENCES AND PERFORMERS
Jen Vuk, WarCry – The Salvation Army, 15 September 2012
Can theatre change lives and move audiences? Sydney-based Milk Crate Theatre certainly thinks so. Its' ambitious new production, suitably called Fearless, brings together a group of ‘performers’ who have each experienced homelessness or social marginalisation. ‘Fearless exceeds the expectation of a normal theatre show by taking audiences through an exploration of loneliness,’ says its promo. And the way it hopes to do this is through the ancient art of storytelling.
Fearless is directed by Mirra Todd and brings on board well-regarded singer and musicians Christa Hughes and Daryl Wallis. One of the performers is Bridget, who plays Pepper, a single mother of a teenage son who battles with depression.
How did you come across Milk Crate Theatre?
I was doing an outreach course in digital media that was being run from Ozanam Learning Centre in Woolloomooloo (in Sydney). I came across a leaflet with information on the different activities available, with dates and times. A friend drew my attention to a six-week workshop about to start by Milk Crate Theatre. It also said at the end of the workshop there would be a performance at Edward Eager Lodge.
The workshop appealed to my sense of fun. I was made welcome and completed the workshop. After the performance I was hooked and decided I wanted to do more.
How much of your own life story is in Pepper’s?
As the rehearsals progressed I saw more and more similarities between Pepper and myself. On the other hand, I may just be making the character Pepper my own.
While Pepper has a son, I’ve never had children. But she is a bit of a loner, like I am, and has slept on the streets. I have slept rough on occasions, but not on a permanent basis.
She is a strong person, but is also vulnerable at times. I have been told I’m a strong woman and I know, like Pepper, that at times I’m vulnerable. Pepper has experienced loneliness, isolation and heartache. I can relate to these aspects of life.
When talking about writing and performing songs you literally light up.
As preparation for Fearless we did a creative workshop. We were told to think about our character and their situation then write down ideas that came into our heads. Just write down thoughts. It didn’t have to be poetry or a rhyme.
We were asked what sort of music the words should be put to. I chose reggae and titled my words ‘Home is Where the Heart is’. Singer Christa and keyboardist Daryl are two practitioners at the top of their craft.
Christa phrased and sang the words. Daryl payed the rhythm we had asked for. The results were stunning. There were seven people with seven completely different songs and tunes. I had no idea a few words could be so creative. I was on a high for a couple of days. Since rehearsals have started I find myself singing the different songs all the time.
Is this your second chance at life?
Yes, I would say Milk Crate Theatre has given me a new lease on life. I have had to learn how to ‘play’ again. It’s so stimulating to be part of the creative process. You know you’re alive. That was what I had been missing in my life. I love going to play readings, being among friends, reading a play and discussing it afterwards over tea and biscuits. At the clown workshop earlier this year I learned to juggle among other things. There is always something happening at Milk Crate Theatre. What will happen after Fearless? I don’t know, but the possibilities are endless. As the saying goes, as one door closes another opens.