With the new year comes a fresh instalment of Fringe World featuring the inspiring theatrical piece ‘Dancing In The Driveway’ written and performed by Evelyn Snook.
‘Dancing In The Driveway’ offers a heartfelt tale of survival told through music, metaphors and movement, with music composed by Be Gosper.
The show is a personal reflection by Evelyn about puppies, mental illness, finding a way to be brave and making mistakes along the way.
We take some time with Evelyn to discuss ‘Dancing In The Driveway’ and its showing at Fringe World.Tell us a little about yourself as a writer and performer?
In 2018 I graduated from WAAPA’s Bachelor of Performing Arts course majoring in Performance Making so I’ve had quite a bit of experience devising and performing work from scratch. Growing up I trained as a classical and contemporary dancer until I gave it up at the age of 15. I find it’s the collisions and cross-overs between artistic disciplines that excite and inspire me, which probably comes from not necessarily knowing how to define myself as an artist. What story are you trying to tell in ‘Dancing In The Driveway’?
I guess it’s the story of my life and more specifically my experiences living with mental illness. It’s very personal material, so in some ways it’s kind of just sharing my story, but hopefully it resonates with a larger narrative about hope and survival, particularly for the one in five people in Australia that experience mental illness.
Image © Stephen Heath
Where/how did the story originate?
I watched '13 Reasons Why' in 2017 because my friend from high school was in it. As someone with a mental illness it was incredibly triggering and heartbreaking to watch. I firmly believe in the power of art to change and widen perspectives on important issues but I was furious with the way the story was told and the lack of regard for the effect it might be having on the people watching it, particularly those already experiencing mental illness. It is an incredibly important topic to be making work about but it needs to be done well. And I believed I could do that by telling my story, a story of survival. And that’s where the project began.How is the story told?
Storytelling, singing, dancing, poetry. There’s lots of metaphors and jokes thrown in there to cushion it all and to reflect my life which is a messy mixture of hysterical laughing fits and profound quotes. I weave in coping strategies and some practical advice I have learnt from my experiences, but hopefully it’s so craftily woven in to the theatrical entertainment that you won’t notice you’re actually learning something along the way.What is the personal significance of the show to you?
“Be what you needed when you were younger”. Creating this show every step of the way I have reflected on my life and tried to create the kind of show that would have helped a younger Evelyn to see as I struggled with my mental health. A story of survival, recovery and strength. A kind of future which I, along with many people, at times struggle to see.Where do the puppies fit in?
Puppies are a big part of my life – from my 14-year-old (no longer a) puppy Belle who’s been with me every step of the way, to the dogs I used to sit with and cuddle in their kennels when I volunteered at the Shenton Park dog's home. There’s one particular coping strategy game I play which involves thinking about puppies as you name a dog breed that starts with every letter of the alphabet. For me, puppies have become synonymous for me with hope and happiness and recovery. So they crop up quite a bit in my story.
Image © Stephen Heath
Has it been difficult getting the show from concept to the stage? What were some of the challenges involved with developing it?
There are definitely emotional challenges making something so personal and it’s always hard making a largely solo work, but I’m so incredibly lucky to be surrounded by a team of incredibly talented professionals who are also some of my closest friends who support me above and beyond, armed with check-in texts and cups of tea. I really couldn’t ask for any more and without them I would have crumbled into a creatively empty, exhausted heap and given up long ago.How did you collaborate with composer Be Gosper to create the music for the show?
I wrote poems and gave them to Be as draft lyrics. They really weren’t very good but somewhere in them must have been the potential for something as Be has managed to turn them into some incredibly beautiful songs. I’ve worked with Be on some other projects before and we have a pretty groovy rhythm (pun intended) sorted out. Working with Be is kind of like working with your own private rock star but even better because they listen to your ideas and they make magic out of a few errant thoughts you’d barely strung together. So yeah, Be’s going to be singing live and I would highly recommend checking out this show, if for no other reason than to hear Be sing for you. It made my mum cry.What can audiences expect from the live performance as a whole?
A true story told in all its honest, confused and heart-warming glory. It’s brave, funny, sad, vulnerable, colourful and oftentimes utterly relatable. Stories from the backyard, memories in the kitchen, hugs on the front porch and lots of dancing in the driveway. With moments of magic and songs you won’t forget, it’s the kind of show that, like a doggy bag at a restaurant – offers something that you can take home with you.
Image © Stephen Heath
How important has Fringe World been as a platform for performing your work?
Fringe is a really special, magic time in Perth offering a platform for emerging and established artists alike, and I’m really excited to share my work as part of it. What else are you working on in 2019, and where might we see more of your work?
Be and I are collaborating with two other artists to make 'Stuff That Helps', a durational performance art piece about mental health and self-care in the arts. It’s a really exciting project that we are performing in August this year at Cool Change Contemporary.
‘Dancing In The Driveway’ plays Beaufort St Community Centre 25-27 January and 1-10 February.