The Poppy Seed Theatre Festival is a funded program where five new producers are granted $7,500 to produce a new work with support of mentorship from professionals in the industry. It sounds like a lot of money, but if you have ever produced a play of any kind, at any level, this is a good 'knee up', towards marketing, and production costs.
On opening night I saw 'Alexithymia' by Citizen Theatre at The Stables at the historic Meat Market in North Melbourne. The production aimed to simulate an environment similar to the sensory experience of a person diagnosed on the autism spectrum - using loud primary colours in the costume and set, strobe and flashing lights, and audial overwhelm with amplified sound effects and soundscape.
Written by Tom Middleditch, the narrative centres on a young woman 'Red' (Nicola Bowman) who dreams of success in career, power and relationships. Red appears confident, very knowledgeable, but somehow keeps missing out on her dream job due to how she answers questions in a behavioural interview. Red has a condition called 'Alexithymia' which is described as the 'inability to name or describe emotions'. Red still feels emotions, but cannot easily define or express them verbally. According to the Poppyseed Theatre program Alexithymia 'affects 85% of people diagnosed on the autism spectrum'.
Red meets 'Blue' (Keagan Vaskess) on a game show hosted by Yellow (Emma Hoy) where the contestants try to answer questions about emotions, and differentiate feeling emotion from physical sensation whilst sharing stories of their experience of anxiety and anger, morbid fascinations, dating perils, social media overwhelm, special interests, amnesia and depression. Red and Blue form a relationship, and together they make a life which combines their quirks and idiosyncracies. Blue loses her adopted mother and experiences disassociation with her grief, called 'Nirvana' syndrome – which is not fully explored in this performance – but perhaps opens the door to a sequel.
Opening night at The Stables, Meat Market, DJ Poppyseed
This is a fun exploration of the world of autism, on the high end of the spectrum, and shows how abilities, eccentricities and idiosyncrasies create a heightened experience of the world which can make navigating the human world of relationships very challenging, but also very interesting. However, underneath this highly sensory performance, is a provocation for the audience to empathise and understand people with Alexithymia or diagnosed on the autism spectrum. This show is definitely worth seeing, and hopefully it gets an opportunity to tour.
But that's not all folks. Check out www.poppyseedfestival.com and see 'Romeo is Not the Only Fruit' at The Butterfly Club, 'Lost:5' at St Martin's Youth Theatre, 'Bread Crumbs' at the Meat Market and 'Tandem' at Chapel Off Chapel.