My sixth Sydney Fringe Interview is Lucy Yabsley, a member of the Dollhouse theatre Collective, who is making her solo directorial debut with A Thousand Words at Fringe this week. We got together to chat about Dollhouse, directing for the first time, and why we all need light-hearted and fun theatre after two years of the pandemic.
Please note, this interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Tell me about the Dollhouse Collective.
The Dollhouse Collective are a group of queer and female-identifying theatre practitioners. We formed as part of our final Uni project at AIM. We were tasked to form a theatre company, write two 20-minute plays, do everything it took to put them on. So, everyone in the company had to have a role— including director, stage manager, designers, acting in the show, that kind of thing.
We did two plays, Playpen and Dessert, which were both so much fun and we just wanted to keep going basically and decided that Playpen needed to be seen by more people. We all wanted to do it again for selfish reasons, because it was so much fun. It was a great show about mental health. We then applied and took it to KXT in the Panimo season, which was huge.
And, we all kind of just went, “Hey, that was a really great process. We all really enjoy working together. It’s been really fun. We want to expand it. We want to get more people in. We want to meet new artists.” Meeting other small theatre companies has been great. And so, we kept developing it from there, because it’s just been a really breezy and fun and easy experience to keep our creativity going post uni.
That sounds like such a cool course!
It really was everything theatre-making, which was very helpful and insightful. We all felt as artists that it allowed us to explore all areas, in case you hadn’t thought that you were interested in something. It definitely helped solidify my skills in directing. I knew that I enjoyed directing but I didn’t know whether I had the skill set to keep pursuing it. The course helped me streamline that and be like, “I am an actor, but I’m also a director, and I should follow that path as well.”
So, tell me about directing—is this the first time you’ve directed?
Yes, this is my first time solo directing. One of the small shows we did as part of the Emerge Festival at Uni was Playpen, which we then took to KXT the year we graduated. Jennifer Hart was the movement director, and it was a devised physical theatre piece, so that was her baby. I just assistant-directed by working on the text. But this one is my first solo “you’re in charge” piece. This is my little baby, which is really exciting.
Is this show, A Thousand Words, also a devised movement piece?
This one is a play I came across on Australia Plays. Which is weird because it feels so Dollhouse. It’s quirky and fun and colourful. It’s written by Hayley Lawson-Smith.
Why should people come see your show?
I think part of the reason I was drawn to it is because, conceptually, it’s so fun, it’s a cool concept.
I’ve been working at Belvoir St Theatre for a while, as a front of house person. And since I started working there, most of the plays—except for maybe one or two—have been quite heavy stuff both across mainstream theatre and indie theatre as well.
Which I think is really important—we’re coming out of the pandemic, a lot of people are wanting to let their grief out and connect again on a human level. But, I do feel like we need a little more fun in theatre scene.
So, it is a comedy. It still touches on gender and queer parenting, and it does have its darker moments and it’s more sincere human moments. But, on the whole, it’s light and it’s fun and it’s quirky, which is why I think people should come see it.
And who would you say is your ideal audience?
The ideal audience is other artists, other queer female-identifying artists, people in the indie scene, who just want to connect with Dollhouse, and to connect with Flight Path, if they’ve never been to Flight Path before.
And then, obviously our friends and family will come to see all the hard work we’ve put in.
It’s not fully aimed at children but it’s not an offensive show by any means. It is set in a child’s drawing, so parents might feel like they want to bring children to it, which they’re more than welcome to because it is fun.
Has this show been performed before?
So, it was performed before in community theatre (by another group), but this is its indie theatre debut.
And, are there any plans to perform this show again?
No. Not in the future. Alex (another Dollhouse member) and I are moving overseas four days after this closing night.
Do you, or does Dollhouse Collective, have any other shows coming up after this?
Not in the near future. Because Alex and I are both in Dollhouse and we are going to be making that trip over (to the UK), we’ll still be creating stuff. We’ve chatted to Jen (another Dollhouse member) about still using that name, if we were, say, to take something to Edinburgh Fringe.
Dollhouse is still very much going to be active, whether that is Jenny spearheading something here in Australia, or Alex and I doing something overseas until we get back.
So, nothing officially planned. I know Rhiarn (another Dollhouse member) has got something cooking in her brain of a new original work. So, we’re definitely not finished.
I will watch the Dollhouse Collective Instagram (dollhouse.collective) for updates!
A Thousand Words is showing at Flight Path Theatre in Marrickville from 13-15th September at 6:30pm. Tickets can be bought here.
Interview conducted and edited by Jo Bradley.