Sometime back in early 2014, writer-director Kevin Smith, while high, riffed on his Podcast about a bizarre Gumtree article he found about man looking for someone to dress up like a walrus for him.
From this, Tusk, a film about a man who is kidnapped and slowly transforms into a walrus was born.
An odd concept sure, but it was one Smith became obsessed with. Not only did he know it was the kind of movie he would love see, he also knew it would simply never happen unless he went out and made it himself.
It was far from a perfect film, but goddamn was it original.
This was very much the same mindset I was in when I went about creating The Ballad Of Frank Allen, a play about a man who is miniaturised and ends up living in another man’s beard.
It was based on a short story series I had written, and I knew that if it was ever going to see the stage, I was going to have to make that leap myself. Honestly, I was happy to take that leap.
I think risk and originality in theatre is so extraordinarily important, which is why I find myself drawn to Improv, fringe festivals and “beyond-the-box”-thinking festivals like Bondi Feast.
I’ve seen Shakespeare done a thousand times and god help me if I ever need to see another production of Caucasian Chalk Circle.
I want to see the original stories people have to tell. To use a music analogy; if musicals are Top 40, and Shakespeare is a cover band, then fringe theatre is punk rock.
I want to see the weirdest parts of people brains spewed on the stage for all to see. I want it to freak people out and make them see that theatre – especially fringe theatre – can be punk. It can be novel, unapologetic, sweaty, messy and strange.
And most importantly, it can make you think.
It doesn’t have to be scary for an audience, either. You can make something weird and wonderful that’s also accessible. Imagine seeing a theatre show for the first time and leaving saying, “So that’s what theatre is!” and being excited to explore more, rather than being turned off the idea all together.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen some incredible mainstream theatre over the years, big-budget shows with large casts, lasers and a thousand lights.
But if I’m honest, the best shows I’ve seen, the ones that I’ll always remember and the ones that really inspired me, had little or no budget at all; tiny one or two-person shows in a makeshift theatre above some pub, with a chair and maybe a prop or two.
It’s the storytelling that sells those shows, the twists and turns, the characters and writing.
Above all, it’s fresh.
If you have an idea for something you want to create burning into your brain and you’re worried that it’s too different and the world’s never seen anything like it before, than that’s exactly why you should make it.
Write a script, shoot a film, make a play, slap it on a canvas, whatever it is, birth your weird art baby into the world and dare people to look at it.
If people don’t like it, fuck ’em, at least you can say you did something.
Because that’s punk rock, man.