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Q&A with Rawcus Artistic Director Kate Sulan

Learn more about Here We Are Amongst You

After 22 years, Here We Are Amongst You will be Rawcus Artistic Director Kate Sulan’s final work. We interviewed her on the making of this powerful piece.

In your own words, tell us what the performance is about and what inspired this body of work?

Here We Are Amongst You is a hard work to describe as we have attempted to create an experience for the audience. The audience sits inside the work and the performance happens in front and behind you. Every audience member will see something quite different and the staging of the work means it’s impossible to take in everything that happens.

At the end of 2019, we began to embark on the creation of this new work. We asked each other what we thought the world needed right now. As we navigated the global pandemic, lockdowns, isolation and working mostly over zoom, we continued to ask ourselves the same question. Our answers crystallised over time and were infused with our experiences of living through the pandemic. We spoke about connection, about generosity, about how we might embrace our differences with grace. We spoke about the need to slow down and breathe, about rest and stillness. We spoke about encounters with strangers, about community and our interconnectedness. We spoke about exuberance and tenderness. We spoke about care for each other and the planet. This work has grown out of these conversations.

When we finally were able to be in the same room together the energy, vibrancy and joy was palpable. We wanted to share that. We wanted to create a work where we hosted our audience with care and generosity. We wanted to celebrate liveness, connection, belonging and being together. We wanted to create something expansive and yet intimate, restorative and intoxicating. Here We Are Amongst You is a work that responds to this moment in time, created by a group of people who love being together.

What does your creative process look like when you are in development and execution mode?

The 14 members of the Rawcus ensemble and collaborators (designer Emily Barrie, composer Jethro Woodward, lighting designer Richard Vabre and dramaturge Ingrid Voorendt) are co-authors of the work. We create the work together in the rehearsal room through a process of research, conversation, and long-form improvisation. We explore the ideas together on the floor. It’s a highly collaborative process. There is a lot playfulness in the room and we take great pleasure from working together. Lights and sound and environment are in the mix from the beginning, and we are all responding to each other’s offers. This work’s process has been heavily influenced by the pandemic as we have worked online with short bursts of in-person creative development rather than a slower incubation of ideas explored together over years in a rehearsal room.

Our rehearsal room is inclusive and flexible. We take the time to translate ideas and communicate in multiple ways so that the 14 ensemble members with diverse minds, bodies and imaginations can contribute fully to the making of the work.

It is a real joy and privilege to work with long term collaborators both in the ensemble and creative team. All of our work is part of an ongoing long term creative conversation with each show building on what has come before. We are driven to continue to explore the questions provoked by or that we are still grappling with from the previous work.

You shared some interesting source material that influenced this work. Can you talk a bit about the importance of The Art of Stillness by Pico Iyer in developing this dynamic work?

I was first introduced to the work of Pico Iyer when I saw this quote which resonated with me.

“In an age of speed, I began to think, nothing could be more invigorating than going slow. In an age of distraction, nothing can feel more luxurious than paying attention. And in an age of constant movement, nothing is more urgent than sitting still”
Pico Iyer ( The Art of Stillness)

The Art of Stillness is a tiny book filled with expansive ideas. It’s about slowing down, paying attention and the urgent need for stillness as a way to fall back in love with the world and enact real change. Stillness, rest, breath and slowing down were all themes in the conversations we were having as an ensemble and this book helped to frame and clarify some of those conversations. We’ve experimented with creating momentum, creating stillness and conjuring experiences of rest for the audience.

Pico Iyer writes that “stillness has nothing to do with settledness (sic) or stasis” and we have played with this idea as well.

Our work is underpinned by the desire to fuel dreams, accumulate questions, slow down time, invite reflection, challenge what is possible, and this book spoke to me of all of those things.  

With such a long history between Arts House and Rawcus, we’re honoured to be presenting Kate’s last work with the company.
Kate, how are you feeling about this being your final show with Rawcus and did knowing that change anything about the making of this together as an ensemble?

Arts House has been a creative home for Rawcus for a long time. We first presented a Rawcus work, Sideshow, at North Melbourne Town Hall in 2004, and have had many works including Hunger, Small Odysseys and Catalogue happen at Arts House since then. Sideshow, our first show at Arts House, was when our design team of Richard, Emily, Jethro and I first worked together. We knew we had found deep creative synergy and something quite special when we created that work, but never did we imagine we would make so much work together over so many years and that our collaboration would still feel as invigorating, inspiring and nurturing as it did back then. It feels very poetic that my final work with the company returns to the North Melbourne Town Hall. It’s a bittersweet moment for me, but after 22 years it is time to pass the baton. Being the last work I make with the company makes it feel very precious. The work explores transitions and shifts in energy and ways of being, so I think this moment in time for the company has seeped into the work in some way. The ensemble and I are cherishing our time together. This is also heightened by the fact we have not been able to be in a rehearsal room together for most of the last two years. It feels impossible to take being together and the opportunity to create and share art with audiences for granted now.

I’m so excited about the the future for Rawcus. I am in constant awe of the ensemble. They are absolutely incredible, and I look forward to being a passionate audience member, cheerleader and supporter of these inimitable artists in the future.

Kate Sulan is a performance maker, director, dramaturge and facilitator. Kate is the founding Artistic Director of Rawcus an award winning theatre company of 14 performers with diverse minds, bodies and imaginations. Her work draws on dance, theatre and visual art disciplines and has been described as “a moving assertion of humanity with a wicked sense of humour”.

Kate’s work embraces complexity and diversity and is underpinned by the desire to amplify connection, fuel dreams, accumulate questions, slow down time, invite reflection, challenge what is possible and celebrate humanity.

Here We Are Amongst You – Rawcus
Wednesday 29 June – Sunday 10 July 2022 
Wed – Sat, 7.30pm
Sat 9 Jul, 2pm & 7:30pm
Sun 10 Jul, 5pm 
Pay if you can $35 | Standard $20 | BLAKTIX $10

Image Credit: Jessica Connell

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