Interview: Carla Kissane (‘Whores and Weeping Women’)
Carla Kissane, actor, singer, writer and all-round ball of talent, is slowly becoming one of those recognisable faces on the Melbourne theatre scene. Having first seen her delightful performance in Neil Cole’s play Groucho (a play chronicling the ups and downs of the remarkable Groucho Marx) I am extremely excited to be able to tap into the mind of an artist who has written and is performing the women of Shakespeare, while mashing them up with contemporary tunes from Amy Winehouse, Florence + The Machine and many more present-day musical queens.
What inspired you to take on and tackle Shakespeare? And then give it a contemporary flicker with songs from twenty first century divas?
Shakespeare was pretty much my first love. I saw Antony and Cleopatra at age 10 and have been mesmerised by his poetry and understanding of human nature ever since. In delving into his cannon as an actor, I became obsessed with the vices, foibles and flaws of his greatest heroine’s. With the assistance of my collaborators, I attempted to find a contemporary female role model who would allow an audience to receive Shakespeare’s characters in a different light- through the lens of popular culture.
There are no doubt a lot of risks tackling a project like this. How long were you working on the show and did you close yourself off to the world or did you let others come in and use them as a sounding board?
As Shakespeare wrote: “All the world’s a stage…” and I really believe this to be the case.
Shakespeare was inspired by the world he lived in, and whilst referencing the past he still managed to comment on contemporary life. I have tried to stay open to the myriad of resonances popular culture affords us in mirroring life, and I always find that the best work is collaborative, because we do not live inside a bubble! I have had many and varied sounding boards; from touring companies and photographers, to academics and actors. Having said this, it’s been almost a full year of exploration to bring this project to life onstage.
I was lucky enough to see your wonderful performance in Neil Cole’s Groucho. What is it like working with someone like Don Bridges who directed you in Groucho and has appeared in countless stage productions and on screen and is now featuring in your show?
Don is a wonderful actor to work with, because he plays the edge between mischief and reverence with abandoned delight! I have an immense respect for his years of experience in the theatre, and his stories are priceless. There’s always a lot of trust and tomfoolery working with Don; the perfect environment to make new work. Don and I go back eight years. Our first gig together was in a theatre restaurant, of all places. I played a demented dominatrix and Don was a deformed but lovable leading man. Some of this background has proved quite useful in conceiving Whores and Weeping Women! Don does wonderful service with the Victorian Actor’s Benevolent Trust; a charity well worth supporting.
Do you have any other plans for the show? Are there plans to tour it or are you just letting this season play out?
I’m hoping this show will have a life beyond its season, investors are most welcome! It would be an simple show to tour…we’ll do our best to make it a good one, and hopefully there will be further opportunities for it to reach a wider audience.
How have you personally prepared to take on this play? Of course having written it helps to make it somewhat familiar. But performing it and lifting it from the pages is no easy feat and I can only imagine it’s a demanding show to play.
It’s been really difficult to switch between writer/dramaturge and actor on this work. And Shakespeare has written most of the words for me! I have a new respect for writers! In all seriousness, I’ve spent the year training my voice, doing lots of yoga and have a scrupulous team who won’t accept anything inauthentic. A major part of this process is letting go of ideas and engaging with what’s working on the floor. I’ve always been a ruthless slicer of other people’s work, so I’ve had a taste of my own medicine in adapting this piece for an audience, and very generous collaborators to thank for it!
And finally, I like to ask this question of people as I’ve always found it interesting to talk to people about their futures and their dreams. Where would you like to see yourself in five years?
Bringing Shakespeare and cabaret to the people! Riding the edge of artistic risk and authenticity with abandon. As generous and fierce as my collaborators on this project: Andrew Blackman, Andrew Patterson and Don Bridges.
Whores and Weeping Women, written and performed by Carla Kissane and directed by Andrew Blackman, can be seen at the Butterfly Club from the 19th November – 24th November. To buy tickets, head along to The Butterfly Club.