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Under Sedation: Canberra’s voice, remixed

Beatrice Smith

The Street Theatre will celebrate Canberra’s poetic voices both past and present when Under Sedation premieres later this month.

Combining verse, song, poetry and even rap, “Canberra verse remixed” seems a fitting tagline for Under Sedation, The Street’s newest original theatre work based on a curated collection of compositions

Running from 30 September until 14 October, this ambitious production has seen director Adele Chynoweth marrying the words of celebrated classic poets to modern rappers, knitting them together over a landscape of acting, physical theatre and musical performance that combines “old and the new, sung and spoken, published and drafted, applauded and unknown, the earnest and irreverent”.

Emma Strapps, Movement Designer for the play, explains that Adele named the play after the eponymous A.D Hope poem as a reflection of the play’s comment on how we choose to live as a society with “such heavy issues around us”.

Emma Strapps

Emma Strapps

“Being the movement director [and] choreographer my role is pulling out how that vulnerability is expressed or how we mask that tension,” she explains.

So how is a mixture of verse, acting and movement such as Under Sedation structured? The short answer – it’s not.

“Good question,” laughs Emma. “There’s not necessarily a pattern or rhythm, it’s actually structured like a bit of a rollercoaster ride!”

“I don’t want to give anything away, but it’s not a ‘flat’ structure so already the audience is part of the picture. This is both really important for the work and extra challenging for the actors – playing to all sides.”

While Emma admits that the nature of the play is ‘different’, she says she was incredibly excited to be asked to be part of such a unique production.

“I’ve done a lot of creating and performing my own work as a dancer/choreographer and the older I get, the more physical theatre it became as opposed to ‘fancy dance’, so approaching a work with actors was really exciting.”

Ruth Pieloor, one of just two actors who will be taking the stage during Under Sedation, agrees with Emma that the subject material can be quite intense, but says that there’s also a lighter side too.

“I think Adele has chosen quite a spectrum of [works] and there are quite a few gritty, gutty, engaging poems,” she says. “But there’s also a sprinkle of light, very intellectual and emotional pieces. It really is a very broad spray of work she’s found.”

While she can’t name a favourite piece, Ruth says she’s both loving and struggling with a rap segment for which she’s being coached through by Sally of Coda Conduct, a much loved Canberra based all female rap group.

“There’s very little breathing!” laughs Ruth.

Like Emma, Ruth admits that she’s challenged by the format of Under Sedation but says that it’s a challenge she’s excited to undertake as a seasoned actor.

“It’s a [unique] mixture of characters,” she explains. “It’s not like a [traditional] play where you might play multiple characters. In Adele’s concept of finding a narrative through these poems, although [the characters] draw together they are still separate, disparate characters in different places, genres, times.”

“What’s wonderful about working on this project is the sense that there are no rules.”

As well as Ruth and Emma, Under Sedation’s creative team features designers Imogen Keen (set), Shoeb Ahmad (sound) and Linda Buck (lighting) working collaboratively to construct a theatrical and dynamic dimension for actors and audiences alike.

Of course, there is another character on stage besides those played by Ruth and her fellow co-star Ben Drysdale – Canberra. Running through all the works is the common thread of our city, which makes Under Sedation compulsory viewing for proud Canberrans and one that we can only hope will go on to become an iconic snapshot of our city.

the essentials

What: Under Sedation
When: A variety of dates from 30 September until 14 October
Where: The Street Theatre, 15 Childers Street, City West
Tickets: $25-39. Purchase them here
More information: thestreet.org.au/shows/under-sedation

This is a sponsored editorial. For more information on sponsored editorials, click here

Feature image: Ben Drysdale and Ruth Pieloor. Images supplied.

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Beatrice Smith

Bea loves that her job as HerCanberra’s Editorial Coordinator involves eating, drinking and interviewing people – sometimes simultaneously. The master of HerCanberra’s publishing schedule, she’s usually found hunched over a huge calendar muttering to herself about content balance. Otherwise you’ll find her at the movies, ordering a cheese board or ordering a cheese board at the movies.

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