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Yarn a performance by Lily Fish


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Three years ago, local performer and writer Lily Fish, presented what can only be described as an amazing physical theatre performance that left such a mark that, to this day I remember it with clarity. Staged in the Tapestry Workshops in South Melbourne as part of Melbourne Fringe Festival, it represented the melding of two artistic worlds, of the visual and of the physical, and a work that wove together both personal and biblical stories into a semi autobiographical performance about identity and self. Yarn will be returning once again, this time being staged at local Melbourne institute- La Mama, over coffee I caught up with the performer to talk about life, art and the new season….

Lily, lets kick things off, how did this Yarn come into being?

It began in 2012 as an artist residency at the tapestry workshop in South Melbourne, and I went there with a vague idea of what I might want to do, and I spent hours and hours standing in front of the tapestries staring at them going “wow there is so many colours I didn’t realize existed, and just feeling overwhelmed” 

I kind of wanted to go dance the tapestry, but then realized I didn’t know how to do that, so I talked to the weavers a lot about what they do, watched them mixing colours by hand. Each bobbin, which is like their needle I guess, has up to 12 threads of yarn on it, I was like “all these yarns being woven together”, so from there I just started writing and I wrote a play accidently, one very much influenced by all these discussions. The tapestries that they make, they are originally other artworks but they reinterpret them as tapestries. So I think that stories and re-interpreting stories is what I do in my play.

Then in 2013 I rang up and asked if I could do a site specific version of my play in their space, and they said yes. So I went back into the space and I worked around the weavers as they where weaving, and found this physicality for this poem, this text, suddenly it became almost dance in some bits, almost physical theatre in other parts.

The work is filled with some beautiful moments, , one of the strongest images that have stuck with me, is that of you wearing those heels and descending the ladder almost backwards, tell me will those heels be making a comeback? 

I love those heels, you know; I didn’t know how to wear heels before the show, like I never wear heels in my normal life at all. I found these heels just at a rehearsal space, there to big for me, there just huge, red, shiny and there’s kind of I don’t know suede bits as well. They are amazing, so I found them and I was like I have to learn to wear these, and it was the same time we were starting to rehearse Yarn, so I was treating them like a circus apparatus. I think I had something to block out about feminists and lesbians; I had a kind of an issue with heels, but I found if I looked at them as just a trick it was fine, so I practiced all the time and had so much fun doing it.

For me I thought about using those heels in other things since, but I can’t, because it belongs to that show, that character. I can imagine performing Yarn in a different space as I will be at La Mama, and I can imagine performing it in a different costume, but I haven’t thought about getting rid of the heels, they will have to come back.

Three years have passed since you performed Yarn, what has transpired both creatively and personally in this time, what has further shaped and given greater form to the work since then?

The first thing that has had an impact on the work post the original development season, is that I had the play published by Playlab in Brisbane; as part of their indie series.  I had to lock down the script for that, and I think having done the development season, I kind of knew what bits where not needed, I had a connection to all of it, but I also knew that fat that could be trimmed.

Immediately after the tapestry season, we where also invited to do a one off at Monash, and it had to be shorter so I trimmed some bit for that and when it came to the publication, I kept some of these cuts but put some things back in. They where some of the first big changes, it’s a definitive script now, as much as one can have a definitive script.

I’ve done a lot more training since, I did four months of physical theatre training at the John Bolton school last year, so I have much greater understanding of how the clown bits’ work. Because some scenes I think are really clown, because the evangelical creature, is very clown, I was just kind of working on impulse before. But now I have some technique so I know now why that’s funny, or how I can push other parts a bit more.

Also I have a baby now, I’m yet to find out how that’s going to really affect it, but I feel like a different person now. Its semi-autobiographical the work, and at the time I was very much at a point of my life, where I was struggling with who am I, experiencing almost this violent rejection of the stories I’d been bought up with, bible stories, the stories I’ve told myself, of who I am.  I was asking myself “can I cast off this stories that even I’ve told myself, and become someone else?”

You know I feel more grown up, I’ve heard older woman say the older you get, the less of a shit you give, and I think its true, I care a lot less about what people think of me.

Visually, will the performance stay the same, will you bringing in any elements from your 2013 season, and how do you feel Yarn fits within (or outside of) current trends of theatre, and design?

Look I’m keen for it to be less literal, but I think that there will be elements, I still have a relationship with the tapestry workshops so the possibility of borrowing stuff from there is still there. My director Andrew Gray is interested in exploring what are we keeping what are we getting rid of.  We are bot interested in site specific work, luckily we’ve both worked in the little lama space before, It’s about how much do we need to keep, I want it to be very simple design wise, and do a lot more with my body and voice.

Look there is such a range of stuff, I think there is a trend of good design in independent theatre, and sometimes that means a lot of stuff and sometimes if means not very much, I think for Yarn that the piece doesn’t require a huge amount of stuff its dense physically and linguistically anyway, and there’s only so much stimulus you want a time.

Yarn opens on June 9th at La Mama, get to it, and support locally made theatre, you can book your tickets here 

(photos by Deryk McAlpin)

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