We've all been there, at some point or another. You were meant to return a call. You have an unanswered email (or 50) sitting in your inbox. You missed paying a bill and now you're in a cafe with electricity, internet, and water. Sh%t happens, right? Well, think of all these issues and expect to be an exaggerated but honest-to-god relatable version, performed in the form of theatrical comedy by actress, comedian and (self-proclaimed) world-class procrastinator, Cristina Lark, who will be coming to Adelaide for the upcoming Fringe festival with her show Caution - Deadline Ahead.
In anticipation of her arrival and her show, I conducted an e-interview with Cristina to find out how she whipped up a show that almost every adult would thoroughly relate to (and how she managed to smash the deadlines of getting her show into this year's festival) - have a read of our exchange below:
Tema: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself, Cristina? Cristina: Yes, but first I need to open my email inbox and find my bio to see if I can copy-paste it here, get distracted with a bunch of unrelated emails, realise I have 3 expiring deadlines, panic for 5 minutes staring at my computer, and open my fridge "to think".
Tema: What is the basic premise of your show (without giving too much away)? Cristina: The show is about leaving everything to the last minute (or never getting round to doing it), missing deadlines, and always being late. You know, fictitious scenarios that never happen to any of us because we all got our shit together. It answers questions such as "why do we procrastinate?", "is procrastination genetic"?, "Is always being late a lack of respect for others?", "Do we procrastinate because of lack of willpower?", "Should we really listen to our shoulder angel?", "What would have happened if the bravest people in human history had procrastinated?", "What if there's a better version of us living happily in a parallel universe in a different timeline?", and "What is time, anyway?"
Tema: What inspired you to create this show on some of the most relatable #adulting issues that no one has found solutions to (thus far)? Cristina: Haha. Good one. I always wanted to have done a Fringe show (emphasis on the verbal tense). I live in London and was fed up with being sent to auditions for heavily stereotyped roles based on how the director saw someone with my shade of skin, gender and foreign accent, and I wanted to take my career by the reins. So I was in Edinburgh in August, just watching Fringe shows, and saw the Adelaide Fringe stand, and thought, "This is it. This is the year. I'm writing a show and taking it to Australia". And then I thought "Oh shit. What am I even gonna write about? Oh, I know, genius idea! I'm gonna call my show "Under Construction" or something, and base all the marketing, poster, press release and venue pitch on the "cute joke" that the show is not ready yet. This should buy me some time, right?".
Tema: What made you pursue comedy and theatre as a career? Was it something you jumped straight into, or were you in another profession prior? Cristina: I jumped straight into it at the age of 4, I guess. I wrote a show about Hello Kitty and got my sister and 2 cousins to perform to my family. I always loved theatre. My mum always says that when my parents took me to see my first show when I was 2, I peed my pants because I was in awe, haha. Of course, I was advised to take any other career, because apparently paying rent and buying food is a thing that adults do. I first graduated in advertising, and worked as a copywriter, in marketing, in business development, etc., but I never quit acting. I undertook heaps of professional training, from drama schools to university studies to workshops, and I did my Masters Degree at RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, in London. Like a NIDA where Anthony Hopkins, Vivien Leigh and Alan Rickman attended). I think that even when it's a natural thing that you have from the start, studying always broadens your mind, your culture and your skill set. I like acting in general, it doesn't matter if it's comedy or drama, but there's power in comedy. Comedy brings like-minded people together and takes political stands in an intelligent, non-preachy way. When people laugh at the absurdity of a situation (especially a real one), they're agreeing with a point of view. They may even be agreeing about it for the first time, because comedy brings a fresh perspective, in an easy-going way. You can get away with criticizing all sorts of social issues without coming across as a bitter bitchy ranter, if you're just exposing the issue for how ridiculous it is, and your audience will be with you.
Tema: I see that you've travelled around quite a bit and taken your talent with you - how has travelling helped with developing your comedy repertoire? Cristina: Traveling only confirmed that there are universal themes that unite us as humans regardless of our so called "national background". Wherever you are in the world, some people will have similarities or differences based on their personality, even more than based on the geographic coordinates of where they were born, even if people sometimes still feel trapped by the national identity they were assigned to. I see this a lot in Australia: I see a lot of bright, intellectually inclined people apologetically saying "us Australians are backwards, uncultured, etc.". Well, clearly not everyone! There are uncultured people in every single country in the world, and people hungry for more high-brow content everywhere as well (like the very people who are not identifying with their perceived national stereotype). And I'm living proof that if you can enjoy a show that's fully in English, written by an ethnically ambiguous foreigner with a weird accent, us humans have more in common than we may think.
Tema: What was it like to have to leave Australia unexpectedly? Cristina: Haha, thankfully this never happened, but I do have a joke about having to leave Australia too soon. I love this country and I want to live here, but my visa keeps expiring, so I need to keep leaving. So if anyone wants to marry me, please come watch the show and let's talk business afterwards.
Tema: What are you hoping for your audience to experience from attending your show? Cristina: If they have a good time, I'm happy. But of course, if they experience a reality check and reassess their messed up lives, take action and go after their long parked and dusty dreams, that will be the cheapest (and most fun) therapy session they'll ever do!
Tema: What can people expect from attending your show? Cristina: They can expect a fun, entertaining hour that will hit home for sure. If you can't relate to any of the material, NASA should be studying you, but certainly, you know someone who is like this, and you'll be able to better understand them, hopefully. If you can't relate to any of it and don't know anyone who can… SETI should be studying you. Welcome to Planet Earth! (please help us sort out climate change).
Tema: How long have you been a part of the Adelaide Fringe (AF) family? How have you found the journey so far? How does it fare, compared to other Fringe festivals that you have been a part of? Cristina: As I said before, I saw the AF stand in Edinburgh during the Fringe and decided to apply. This will be my 2nd year. It's a wild journey and I'm pretty sure there's no return. AF is more challenging than any other Fringe festivals I've done, including Edinburgh, I'd say mainly because it's huge and you can't flyer so much, so it's harder to get people to even know your show exists. Perth was great for audience members and I didn't have to make any effort to promote, and Edinburgh also picked up quite nicely, but I had a hardcore flyering game going on. I'm looking forward to this year, though.
Tema: How did you score the venue The A Club for your show? Cristina: Like I always score things: leaving it to the last minute and begging the organizers to let me in. But put in a more professional way, I contacted the Fringe (late!) and asked which venues would be suitable for my type of show, and they cut me a list, so I applied to the ones I thought could nice, got some offers, and chose the A Club.
Tema: Are there any specific activities that you're hoping to do, when you get to Adelaide? Cristina: I missed the Fringe artist visit to the beach last time, and never went to Kangaroo Island, so that's a plan. I also need to find a husband (or wife, Australia voted yes, and it's all about the paperwork) before my visa expires again, so I'll be definitely going to the new local speed dating service Social Co., run by the amazing Radelaidian Kristina Noicos.
Tema: Are there any performers that you're really looking forward to seeing at this year's Fringe? Cristina: Anya Anastasia as usual, Josh Glanc, Tash York, and a lot of impromptu decisions. I want to find non-mainstream shows that do something more than just standup and support more female performers. Also, there's a show that I originally directed for a short run at the Melbourne Fringe 2016 that is back for Adelaide this year. It's called Joyous Depression, performed by Nores Cerfeda, and it's hilarious (and very uplifting, even if it's about depression). I want to see how the show is doing 2.5 years later.
Tema: Is there anything else that you'd like your audience / our readers to know about yourself and/or your show? Cristina: Yes. It's a show called CAUTION: Deadline Ahead, and it's about missing deadlines. So latecomers WILL be made fun of. As much as this is definitely the right show for you, please be punctual. I don't mess with the audience otherwise. It's more of a theatrical comedy, so there's no space for heckling, just like you can't heckle Shakespeare, an art exhibition, or a YouTube video. So sit on the front row with nothing to fear!
Cristina Lark: Caution - Deadline Ahead (A Comedy About Procrastination) will be playing at the A Club from February 27 - March 17, as part of Adelaide Fringe.