5 Questions with Alana Birtles and Eleni Cassimatis

Alana Birtles

Eleni Cassimatis: What compelled you to audition for Everyone I’ve Ever Loved Or Slept With Or Both?
Alana Birtles: I decided to apply to audition for Everyone because I thought the title was very intriguing. I also liked the idea of investigating relationships and how people ‘mark’ or ‘stain’ us. Those particular words stood out to me.I also think the Sydney Fringe is a great festival and I jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it.

The process has been quite unusual, as we’ve been devising all while using a script. Can you explain what the process has been like for you?
It’s been a really interesting process devising and collaborating on this script. I’ve never worked in this way professionally before. I feel like it gives you a lot more room to play and discover, and I feel like it brought us closer as an ensemble. As each interpretation of this work will be unique, this will be the only time this version will be performed which is also a really cool thought.

Can you explain to everyone what “cup casting” is, and why we’ve been doing it?
Cup casting is this magical process by which we put ‘character names’ into a cup (a very particular cup mind you) and we each pull one out to see who we will be playing. It’s actually worked out amazingly as we all got characters/scenes that we had originally said resonated with us.

Have any moments or scenes from the play resonated strongly with you?
Yes there’s one scene in particular that I felt strongly about. Without giving anything away I’ll say that the scene is a complex one in its emotional variations but also the concept behind it. This is an instance where the magic cup casting worked because I actually ended up being allocated that scene. Otherwise, I believe the play presents a multi-faceted view of relationships that is relatable to everyone. Dissecting the play, the entire ensemble has related to particular experiences in the play or known someone that has had a similar experience.

We’ve been having a weekly guac comp during the rehearsal period… got any hot tips for a killer guac?
Ah the guac comp; one of the highlights of my Saturday’s. I am an avid avocado fan and pride myself in my guac-making abilities. I believe lots of flavour and freshness is key. I like to add a bit of raw garlic and Spanish onion, but I think you shouldn’t be afraid to utilise a decent amount of lemon, salt and pepper. I’m not usually a fan of coriander but I’ve been converted when used in guac. Coriander with a bit of tomato adds freshness.

Eleni Cassimatis

Alana Birtles: How are you enjoying working as part of a democratic ensemble?
Eleni Cassimatis: The collaborative nature of our democratic ensemble has been a lot of fun. As we are devising our way through a new text, it has meant we can basically pave our own way through it. Our cast and creative team are made up of a wonderful group of artists who all have a brilliantly diverse range of experience in various acting/theatre-making forms, meaning what each person brings to the table is a different wealth of knowledge, and therefore the experience of each scene or ‘vignette’ in the play has been injected with a variety of storytelling forms. On top of this, our cup casting has meant some scenes have been cast completely out of control, and then we’ve had the fun job of making it make sense!

What’s been the most challenging part of the process for you so far?
The most challenging part of the process for me was probably in the initial phases of staging the play – making myself succumb to the fact that we were going to have no idea what exactly the play was, or how exactly we were telling this story, and allowing myself to just play and create with no clear ending. St Clair’s text has been left so open for us, which at first seemed daunting, but gave us an abundant amount of delicious possibilities.

St Clair’s rejected a masculine story arch in her writing. How have you found working on a play that’s structure is more cyclical than linear?
The play’s structure, being more cyclical than linear, means that there isn’t a defined start point and end point to the story, and that where the play begins and where it ends could actually be anywhere in this order of experiences. In rejecting the traditional masculine story arch, Saint Clair has created an experience for the audience that gets ‘left hanging’ and doesn’t have a clear resolution, but what could instead be a new beginning. I’ve found working on this structure to be full of discoveries, because each time we would work out what one scene could be, we would find that it would open up hundreds more possibilities for what the preceding and subsequent scenes could be. I think it let us be more ok with pieces not directly connecting to each other, because they were still part of the inherent circling motion of the entire play, and thanks to the brilliant writing we were able to step back and trust that all the pieces connected and linked to form their own version of the traditional storyline.

Everyone explores intimacy and human connection in abstract fragments, which isn’t unfamiliar content in the theatre. How does this production present this universal experience in a different light?
I think the best way to talk to this is that in Everyone, we get to see little slices of life, which are short (or sometimes longer) glimpses into the relationship between couples or groups of people. These transactions explore many different assets of human connection and intimacy, are transient, and over the course of the play will hopefully resonate with and reflect experiences that everyone can relate to! The play breaks these concepts open and addresses them as the characters live out their experiences in front of the audience, and by allowing the characters to passionately try to work things out & make sense of things for themselves, pulling the audience in and along with them on the way.

There are 400 shows playing as part of the Sydney Fringe. Why should people come see Everyone?
Firstly – the title. Come on guys, how can you not be wanting to know more? Second – what a crew and cast I get to work with – working with Liz has been incredible, the guys at Revolving Days are amazing, and the 5 other actors I have got to spend this last six weeks with have been an absolute blast. I am so proud of the work we’ve created, I love the idea that no other version of this play will ever be the same, and love that I got to play part in putting St Clair’s work on it’s feet in the public for the first time.

Alana Birtles and Eleni Cassimatis can be seen in Everyone I’ve Ever Loved Or Slept With Or Both by M Saint Clair.
Dates: 4 – 8 Sep, 2018
Venue: Blood Moon Theatre