The 2017 NZ Fringe has already been such a positive and inspiring time for me. By managing this blog I have had so many stories shared with me, and for that I am truly grateful! In the wee blurb under my posts it says that I love connecting with people - and it's honestly so true! I especially love connecting with other artists. It's a unique thing to be able to meet, hang out, and not say goodbye... Because you know you'll be seeing them somewhere else someday very soon. It's not just in Wellington where everyone knows every god damn person on the street, it's the whole festival circuit!
When I first met Tomás Ford I was instantly intrigued. Where had he come from? How did he begin this life? Like the ultimate stalker networker I am I investigated his life and stumbled across this article. At the time it was exactly what I needed to read (I even remember sending it to my mum being like, "this guy is the reason I'm so hungover today! He seems great!") and so here is another post from Tomás Ford himself, which is potentially exactly what YOU need to read right now. On day 13 of NZ Fringe. Enjoy.
I am so bloody excited to come to Wellington. This time last year I hit town for my first time in New Zealand, and accidentally found what feels like a second home in your country. I’ve been around a lot of it now and I love both of your kickass isles.
I’ve been mainly touring my Crap Music Rave Party (which I’m bringing back this time too), and as much as I love doing that, the big thing in my world is my weird cabaret shows.
Sorry, just a side note from Jess here, Crap Music Rave Party will absolutely blow your freaking mind. Please do yourself a favour and get to it.
Just some proof I loved it every time
Anyway, back to Tomás...
This year I’m bringing Tomás Ford’s Chase!, my one man thriller. I tell a twisted spy story over eleven original songs, with two screens of projection and a bunch of storytelling.
It has had a bloody strange little life, so I thought I’d bring you up to speed on how it became what it is.
Way back in the mid-2000s, I was asked to do a collaboration with a local mashup producer called Team9, who was working on an album. He wanted to do something epic, and I’d always wanted to do a James Bond theme kind of song. So I wrote a song called Lines about a sniper attack gone wrong. It ended up on his album, but he lost interest and basically disappeared from the internet around the end of Myspace.
Collaborating with me isn’t easy, and he probably threw what I was writing in the “too hard” basket. The follow up songs I sent included one in ¾ time called Travel Pack (a tough call for 4/4 dance producers), and another track called VRO about violence restraining orders (which was almost immediately after consigned to my Never To Play To Anyone Ever Under Any Circumstances pile). I woulda noped the f*ck outta there too, I guess.
I kept writing, a bunch of different moments and characters emerging with a narrative starting to thread between them. I realised I’d made a female protagonist, but that it was creating problems with audience sympathy when it came to having to fight her, so I had to write around that. I had a lot of gaps to fill in the story and other shows to tour. In the end, it took seven years to pull into a shape I was happy with, a version of the show called The Final Chase.
The first season, in the outer suburbs of Perth, was a total mess. The story didn’t make any sense. The character was an unrelatable drug addict. There was too much left to the audience to figure out. But there was something there. I took the show to Edinburgh, where my audiences tend to pretty literate; they were willing to put in the work. It all seemed to make sense. The reviews were nice. Yay.
As a side note, the Edinburgh poster was widely criticized as looking like “Santa having a wank.” Once I saw that I couldn’t unsee it and had to change it!
The "Santa wank" poster
I put it on the shelf for half a year and then came back to it for shows in Brighton (UK), Prague and back home in Perth. In Brighton, the small audiences loved it as they’d all grown up on James Bond. Prague proved tougher – the language barrier was part of the problem, but audiences were not keen on my heavy audience work and it meant they were scrutinizing my narrative more than ever. I started to keenly feel a few plot holes. One main character in particular seemed to disappear for half the show.
I brought the show back to Perth and folks loved it, which was reassuring, but it’s hard for me to get a read on the quality of a show back in my hometown. Audiences there have been following me for a long time and they kinda get what I’m trying to achieve, so there’s a lot of leeway. I was so glad for that season because it gave me the confidence that there was a good show in there waiting to be rescued from its’ problems.
I spent the next couple of years touring other shows and remodelling Chase in between. I rearranged all the songs, as the heavy electronics of the original were a stumbling block for the wider audience the show was bringing in. Strings and horns and live drums worked better and sounded kickass. I went away to Singapore and Indonesia to shoot footage for the projections. After that trip, I came home and realised I only had 16 days to make my covers show Craptacular! (which I brought to NZ Fringe last year), and somehow proceeded to magically pull that show outta my butt. Late last year, I took a residency at Mandurah Performing Arts Centre and with director Levon J Polinelli and tore the script to shreds, completely rebuilding it from the ground up. And, finally, frantically shot the final scenes, including a waterboarding sequence, around my hometown.
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All that hammering away resulted in a show that shares only the basic songwriting and a few broad strokes with the previous version. It’s less a redevelopment than a burning-down-and-starting-again. It’s a lot funnier, and the character I’m playing is so much richer. And it’s become a very dark comedy – we spent so much time writing jokes for this thing.
It went really well back home – great reviews and crowds. Wellington is the first place outside of my hometown it’s gonna go up. I won’t lie, I’m a bit nervous. But I like being nervous. So bring on opening night on Thursday.