You're Invited: Awesome Ocean Party Returns to Brisbane
Giema Contini invites you to the most magical birthday party Brisbane has ever seen. Awesome Ocean Party is heading to Brisbane Powerhouse from November 21-24, and it’s going to be a whole lot of fun.
TCI caught up with Giema Contini, creator and star of the critically-acclaimed cabaret, before she brings Awesome Ocean Party‘s aquatic wackiness to Wonderland Festival 2019.
The Creative Issue: Can you give our readers a quick rundown of what Awesome Ocean Party is about?
Giema Contini: It’s a magic-realism-cabaret cross birthday party hosted by a woman who think she’s half octopus.
TCI: You’re not only the director and lead actor in Awesome Ocean Party, but you also created the show. What was that experience like for you, and how did you navigate the process?
GC: It’s been a long process actually. I first had the idea to make a show back in 2012, and it started off as something entirely different. Through a series of creative developments, it sporadically spread out over a handful of years and the show slowly took shape and became what Awesome Ocean Party is now. It’s been on the boil for quite some time.
TCI: I was going to ask how you got the initial idea, but it sounds like it was a bit of a far cry from what the show is now…
GC: Well, it is and it isn’t. I was originally really interested in broken heart syndrome, being a condition where people can literally die from a broken heart. The medical term for broken heart syndrome is Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy, which is Japanese — takotsubo translates to “octopus tract”. When someone has broken heart syndrome there is a pocket inside their heart that flares out into the shape of an octopus tract. When I made that discovery, I went down this rabbit hole of researching the octopus and found all of these parallels and amazing facts around the octopus in relationship to this broken heart disease. It was from there that Awesome Ocean Party started to take shape and form.
TCI: Aside from broken heart syndrome, how does this half-octopus character help you to explore human connection?
GC: The character has essentially created this mythological version of her life story and it’s through her sharing this story with her party guests, which are the audience who come to see the show, that she is able to let go of the pain of her story and access the truth of who she is and connect with her audience.
TCI: It features an original soundtrack by Nathan Stoneham. What was the process of putting the show together with the soundtrack like and how did you communicate your intention?
GC: Nathan was heavily involved in the first handful of developments. He was in the room with me and we would basically just make the music together on the floor. I would write the lyrics and he would write the music, and we would perform it and work together on it. Through that process we discovered what works and what didn’t. Some of his music that he wrote back in 2012 is still as is in the show now.
TCI: You’ve been performing the show for a couple of years. Has it evolved much over that time?
GC: Absolutely! I first did it at Anywhere Festival in Brisbane. We performed it at the Musgrave Park pool in the kiddy pool. Watching the footage back of that season now, it’s definitely the first draft. Then when I did it for Melbourne Fringe in 2016, the ending changed quite a lot and there were some new songs. Then just last year, pretty much out of nowhere, I had a revelation about what the work truly is and I thought, “OK, this is the most full version of it that it will be,” and I had to give it another life.
TCI: I’m interested in the magic realism element of this production. How did you arrive at this setting or frame for the show, and how does it enable you to explore the themes that you’re touching on?
GC: It’s been the world of this work from the beginning, and I guess the magic realism comes in in terms of the mythological version of her story. She speaks of her octopus Dad who’s the lone survivor from the previous universe and there’s all of this kind of poetry and magic around that version of her life story, but it’s like… She hasn’t got eight tentacles, and so it’s the balancing between the magic and mythology with the practicalities of being at a birthday party.
TCI: How does the set design of Awesome Ocean Party contribute toward the magic realism?
GC: We have every day set items, like a children’s sandpit clam shell and a fish tank filled with water with a filter going — they’re our two main set pieces. We’ve taken these everyday children’s household items and through the magic of theatre they become more than just a sandpit or a fish tank. They’re an island in the ocean and… They’re very poetic as well as being recognisable objects.
TCI: The show has received a very positive response. What elements do you find resonate with people the most?
GC: I think it’s quite funny and quirky, and people really respond well to that kind of weird humour. Kind of clowning, The Mighty Boosh at times… Wes Anderson kind of humour.
There’s a lot of heart in the show and I think it connects with people. People often say to me that they’re not sure if they should be laughing or crying so they end up doing both. I think that’s a big reason why people enjoy the show.
Awesome Ocean Party is part of the weird and wonderful line up of Wonderland Festival 2019, which will call Brisbane Powerhouse home from 21 November to 1 December 2019. To RSVP to Contini’s quirky celebration of the imagination, check out the details below.
What: Awesome Ocean Party
Where: Turbine Studio, Brisbane Powerhouse
When: 21-24 November 2019
How Much: Tickets from $30
More Info: Visit the Brisbane Powerhouse website here.