Having worked for a role-call of notable theatre companies, including Side Pony Productions, Barking Gecko Theatre Company and Weeping Spoon Productions, 30-year-old performer, writer and director Adriane Daff has had a busy career to-date.
She will now take a starring role in the Black Swan State Theatre Company’s upcoming production of Noël Coward’s wordy, witty and poetical 1941 play ‘Blithe Spirit.’ The petite theatre-maker will play Ruth, the second wife of protagonist Charles Condomine, who must contest for his affection when his spirited first wife is brought back as a ghost during a séance.
Contrived by the English playwright as a deliberate distraction from the horrors of World War II, Daff said that she wants people to connect with the classic story, as it remains joyous and relevant now.
A 2004 graduate of the West Australian Academy of Performing Arts’ (WAAPA) ‘Theatre Arts’ course, Daff went on to study acting in NYC (2007-2009) and Paris (2011). “Those experiences shaped the kind of theatre artist I have become,” Daff said. “I don’t judge anyone who feels they want to leave Perth and try a different place. You learn things about who you are as an artist and, more importantly, the kind of work that you want to make. For me, the people that I love working with are in Perth.”
Much of Daff’s most recent theatre has been a result of her collaboration with seven individual artists who came together to make new work here in Perth and then tour it. Named The Last Great Hunt, its ‘Hunters’ include Daff, Jeffrey Jay Fowler, Tim Watts, Gita Bezard, Arielle Gray, Chris Isaacs and Kathryn Osborne. With its second anniversary approaching, the theatre collective has produced one success after another and proved itself better than spending a night of pleasure with Daenerys Targaryen.
In 2014, Daff and the rest of the creative team produced ‘Falling Through Clouds’, an intensely intimate and moving story detailing the efforts of a scientist (Daff) to bring birds backs from extinction in a grim dystopian future. They innovatively employed animation, puppetry and video, among other things, in the live performance. “Incorporating modern innovation into any kind of art widens the scope of what you can create. Text-based theatre will probably always exist in a specific language so we’re pushing towards a non-verbal, more international style of performance. Rather than discounting traditional forms, it just means that there’s more out there to be consumed,” Daff said.
Unlike in other works, Daff admits she has been less heavily involved in every aspect of the development of ‘Blithe Spirit’ as set, costume, lighting and sound roles are very clearly defined. “In a show like ‘Elephants’, all we (the Hunters) started with was an idea. We built every layer simultaneously during the rehearsal experience. Conversely, a Black Swan show brings on highly trained professionals weeks before the actors even get in the room. [Set and costume designer] Bryan Woltjen and the wonderful wardrobe department made beautiful costumes before we even started rehearsal! It was actually very helpful because they gave me so many ideas.”
After concluding her turn as Ruth, Daff will move immediately to a new piece by the Hunters being helmed by Gita Bezard. Currently titled ‘We Are Angry’, it is intended as a “highly political piece of theatre about Australia’s treatment of people seeking asylum in this country. Myself, J.J. Fowler, Arielle Grey, Gita and Joe Lui [a fellow Perth theatre maker but not a Hunter] will seek to psychologically unpack why this is going on in our country and have a discussion about how, when you know great injustice exists in the world at every moment, you can still listen to Taylor Swift, for example, and have a good time. There’s a lot of science that suggests that we are emotionally evolved so that we can’t take on the weight of the world, however we’re at a point where we actually have to do something. If something is out of sight and out of mind, how do we bring it into sight and into mind so that we can affect positive change?”
‘Blithe Spirit’ runs July 18 – August 9 @ Heath Ledger Theatre.
Words by Samuel J. Cox