If you have at all any investment in contemporary Perth theatre, then Charlotte Otton needs no introduction. Having starred in and produced hit shows Let me finish. and Feminah, Otton chatted with Arts Editor Stirling Kain to discuss her upcoming performance in the comedy Perpetual Wake.
Stirling Kain: Tell us about the character you play in Perpetual Wake, and why you are excited to perform in this show.
Charlotte Otton: The character I predominately play is Fiona West. She’s a social media influencer and a hardcore fan of romance novelist, Bernice Chantilly.
There’s lots to be excited about with this production. It’s lovely being in the room with the Hunters and seeing how they work as a company. Gita and Jeffrey have written a play full of gritty, selfish and ego-driven characters and that’s a fun world to play in.
S.K: Your roles in the two shows from which I know you best – Feminah and Let me finish. – are quite different from Perpetual Wake. What is it like to transition from having a significant production and acting role, to focussing singularly on acting?
C.O: It’s actually way more daunting. Daunting and exciting – but daunting nonetheless. So far, all my work has been mostly auto-biographical (with thinly veiled characters) so delving into a proper character and a reality that I haven’t written is a challenge. A challenge in that it doesn’t come as organic me, which is great for my growth as an artist.
S.K: Although a comedy show, Perpetual Wake navigates serious themes relating to social media: specifically, the seriousness wrapped up in its perceived importance, and the associated vulnerability of one’s image and personhood. Are these themes you relate to, be it personally or anecdotally?
C.O: Yeah, certainly. I’d say through the development of the script in the room, the show is now leaning more towards the importance and vulnerability of a person’s image and less social media (that’s certainly still there though).
I think the struggle one has with how they present themselves to the world versus how they truly are is interesting. Also, where ego comes into play and the affect that has.
I guess one of the more significant places I find this in my life is Instagram. I certainly present someone online that I don’t truly identify as sometimes. I get wrapped up in the ‘importance’ of online presentation. I had to delete my gram like two years ago and start fresh because the majority of my pictures were just “tasteful” nudes and very emotionally baiting photos. It was a mess. I’m not sure who/what that was ahahaha.
S.K: Your show Feminah has been incredibly successful – it was shown at this year’s FRINGE WORLD Festival; the 2019 Winter Nights series at The Blue Room Theatre; and it’s heading to the Sydney and Melbourne Fringe Festivals in September. In your mind, what is it about Feminah that resonates so intensely with its audience?
C.O: I think people like watching people be their real selves on stage. And as a performer, I’m most comfortable being that. I think the show really resonates with women who are probably having similar thoughts and experiences with navigating what it means to be a woman and whatever the fuck femininity means and how they process that in their own bodies.
It’s got lots of songs and comedy and filth and one tit so I think it’s probably an approachable show for everyone too, not just the gals.
S.K: Do you adopt an alternative mental and/or practical approach to acting in a comedy play like Perpetual Wake, compared to the autobiographical productions that you have performed in previously?
C.O: When my role is simply just an actor in a play, I initially spend a bunch of time with the script and break each scene down; I do those lame (but incredibly helpful) Stanislavski character questions, beat the script, map my character journey etc. When it’s my own autobiographical show, I don’t tend to do that much intensive work, as I instinctively know who/what/where/why.
More information about Perpetual Wake can be found here.
Interview by Stirling Kain