5 Questions with Lou Pollard and Tim Hansen

Lou Pollard

Tim Hansen: What was your first Shakespearean role on stage?
Lou Pollard: Portia in The Merchant Of Venice when I was a teenager questioning my entire life. My mum’s family were very religious and I spent years going to Sunday school at my grandparent’s church. So I have a lot of hymns and prayers in my head that don’t mean much to me! This play was the first time I actually understood the biblical concept of God teaching man to show mercy to fellow human beings. “Though justice be thy plea, consider this, That, in the course of justice, none of us should see salvation: we do pray for mercy; And that same prayer doth teach us all to render the deeds of mercy.”

Who is your favourite Shakespearean villain?
I do love Lady Macbeth, but is she a villain, or just a woman with the strength to stand by what she believes, and do what the men around her do not have the courage to carry out? She reminds me of British PM Margaret Thatcher, a woman with a hard heart and strong convictions surrounded by powerful men. Or maybe she was just a complete cow with no empathy whatsoever. Humans are
very complicated beings, Shakespeare understood this so well. “Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, / And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty. Make thick my blood. / Stop up th’ access and passage to remorse

How are you preparing for the show?
I’m feeling very white bread, so I’m listening to rap tracks. My youngest daughter loves Nicki Minaj so I’ve had her on repeat at home. I’ve also been reading monologues and sonnets, and I read Bill Bryson’s book Shakespeare: The World As Stage which is a fascinating look at the history of the time and where Shakespeare was living when he wrote most of his work.

What monologue are you prepping, and why did you choose it?
I’ve picked my favourite sonnet because I want to play with the rhythm of it. I’ve been a big Eminem fan for a long time and I’m thrilled I’ve got the opportunity to maybe bring my humour and
sense of play to a ‘serious’ work. Some acting friends who are well-versed in Shakespeare feel that the sonnet I’ve chosen is a bit of a downer, but I think it ends on a really positive note. I first learnt the sonnet 25 years ago and as I age it becomes more of a truth in my life than ever before.

Why do you think Shakespeare still resonates with audiences after all these years?
Shakespeare was so smart and funny and understood that relationships are tricky. His writing conveys that he understood the complexity of humans and the tangled, messy lives we lead. His
sense of humour was so sharp and his observations of the frailties of human life were so acute, that we still understand when he says, “to be or not to be, that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Or to take arms against a sea of troubles. And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep– No more–and by a sleep to say we end. The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” That’s why I love working with the Leftovers. Their clever shows provoke an audience to question how we as a society deal with gender roles, crime, racism & intolerance; the same issues that Shakespeare was writing about.

Tim Hansen

Lou Pollard: When did you fall in love with Shakespeare?
Tim Hansen: I was first meaningfully exposed to Shakespeare in high school and it wasn’t exactly love at first sight. Like a lot of high school students I could not understand why we had to trawl through this archaic language and try to understand it and write essays on it and pick apart conceits and sonnets and metaphors. It wasn’t until I was in year 9 and my school participated in the Shakespeare competition (is that still a thing? I went to school last century) that I really began to “get” Shakespeare. I grew up in a country town and there were really limited opportunities to get up on stage and perform, so when my English teacher said there was a competition that involved being on stage and performing I was totally in – I would have been happy reciting the ingredients on a box of clothes detergent as long as there was an audience. My group performed Act 3 Scene V from Romeo And Juliet, where Capulet rages at Juliet because she won’t marry Paris. I was Capulet. I remember walking around and around my backyard with my script in hand reciting the lines to myself in order to learn them, and I remember loving it because the language had this rhythm to it that just kind of synced with my steps and sunk into my brain like a hot ball bearing into butter. To this day I can still remember my opening lines. So studying it in English sucked all the fun out of it, but once I got up on stage to perform it, I got it. Now, I read Shakespeare for my own personal pleasure. It’s calming and beautiful. I love it.

Why did you want to work with the Leftovers Collective?
I’m a weird performer. I have a theatre degree but have kind of patchy actor training. My main vocation is actually music composition, and music is where I spend most of my creative
headspace. Music is my job, whilst theatre is my passion, and though I love my job I miss getting up on stage. Plus although I love conventional director/actor/script/audience set ups, I’m very attracted to experimental collaborative processes where no one’s really sure what’s going to happen. And then, suddenly, there’s a collective that takes you as you are, that doesn’t ask for you to strictly mould yourself around the requirements of one person’s vision but instead says “what are all the things you can do? Let’s find a way to make theatre together”. That kind of thing is totally my cup of tea.

What’s your favourite Shakespearean insult?
For sheer overall relentlessness you can’t go past the interactions between Kate and Petruchio in The Taming Of The Shrew – I think it was a production of that play by Bell Shakespeare way back in like 2000/2001 I saw that was the first time I laughed out loud from beginning to end at a Shakespearean play. But I think my favourite would have to be from Troilus And Cressida: “Thou hast no more brain than I have in my elbows”. Brutal.

Are you a trained dancer? Will you be dressed in dance gear for the show?
Um I am most certainly not a trained dancer. I move like a rusty clothes line blowing in a gale. So yes I will absolutely be dressed like a tragic reject from Wham!

Where would you most like to perform this show?
I have this vision of us all getting together in some deserted car park and having an 80’s style dance-off with boom boxes and breakdancing like at the beginning of Michael Jackson’s Bad video clip. Except please don’t ask me to breakdance. I’ll just break.

Lou Pollard and Tim Hansen are appearing in Shakespeakre Dance Party, with The Leftovers Collective.
Dates: 11 March, 2018
Venue: Hustle & Flow Bar, Redfern

Review: Invasia (The Leftovers Collective)

leftoversVenue: Hustle & Flow Bar (Redfern NSW), Jan 26, 2017
Devisors/Performers: Veronica Alonzo, Nisrine Amine, Alison Bennett, Lauren Clair, Darryl Cooper, Curly Fries, Fiona Jopp, Tim Kemp, Lorna Munro, Lap Nguyen, Paul Ryan, Wendy Strehlow, William Suen

Theatre review
Australia Day remains a celebration for some, but for many others, it is an occasion to remember the atrocities that originated in 1788, and continue to happen to our Aboriginal peoples on a daily basis. There is no question that a significant proportion of the population understands the remorse that should feature on the day, although very few are able to conceive of any proper action that would extend beyond words of sorrow and guilt. We run the risk of turning the occasion into an opportunity for a kind of emotional absolution, that is ultimately inconsequential.

Invasia imagines an absurd scenario, whereby a new ruler is democratically elected to take over the Australian government, with dictatorial powers that enable them to determine a whole new way of life. Five individuals take to the stage, reciting passionate diatribes, in various non-English languages. We are mostly confounded, restricted by our monolingualism, unable to understand anything. Listening takes on a different meaning, as we move away from the activity of deciphering words, to becoming open to the other signifiers in communication. We are forced to connect on other levels, heart to heart perhaps, in trying to reach something concrete, and mutual.

It is easy to talk about the dismantling of failing systems through radical ideas, but we never go through with them. We take small steps instead, and are frustrated that change is invisible. If the problem is identified as being a white patriarchal thing, we want to conceive of a solution that simply replaces an ethnicity for another, a gender for another, except existing power structures will easily determine that the staus quo remains. The art of Invasia provides no answer to our Australia Day woes, but it is a strong articulation of the many questions, relevant and pertinent, even if we comprehend none of its words.


5 Questions with Nisrine Amine and Wendy Strehlow

Nisrine Amine

Nisrine Amine

Wendy Strehlow: What inspired you to become a performer?
Nisrine Amine: Had it not been for my high school years at Our Lady of Mercy College Parramatta under the guidance of my Drama teacher Ms Julia Homfray, I don’t think I would have ever had the
courage to enter a career in the arts. She saw my potential and believed in me so strongly that
it subsequently made me (bring out the violins!) believe in myself. I am also inspired EVERY
SINGLE DAY by my family and friends, by the people I meet, the people I observe on the
streets (in a very discreet and non-creepy way), the stories I read, the sounds I hear. How can
we live in a world, on a planet, that is BUSTING with stories and life and heartache and
conflict and love and struggle and courage and NOT be inspired? Not be inspired to write
about it all? To share and celebrate it all? C’est impossible!

Who do you admire as an artist?
Not any one person in particular but generally speaking (and excuse my French) those who
don’t give a fuck. The ones who are so strongly compelled to be nothing but themselves, who
own their craft, who own their voice and who see artistry and creativity as being something
bigger than themselves – a duty, a responsibility. On a more practical note, I admire people
who are persistent and consistent, primarily because I can tend to be neither of those things.
Oh, and I love writer/director/producer combination people. Like Lena Dunham and Mindy
Kaling or people who turn their real life experiences into art like Benjamin Law and Josh

What made you join the The Leftovers Collective?
I got a random call one day from Curly whom I’d never met but who happened to be a friend
of Bali Padda (who I also hadn’t really met but we were FB mates which counts for a lot in
this day and age – Hi Bali!). Curly said that he was looking for an Arabic speaker to join the
crew and Bali had recommended me and the rest is history. I did my first show with the
Leftovers where I had to recount a Jacobean text in Arabic. I think I scared half the audience
because the Arabic language is harsh enough let alone using it to deliver a passionate speech
from the Jacobean era. Ai yai yai. It was a lot of fun though! Experimental, social,
provocative theatre isn’t something I normally gravitate to but being part of this collective
has definitely helped to cultivate my fondness of the art form.

Have you ever experienced racism in your daily life and in the arts industry?
There have been many times where I’ve visited parts of Sydney and felt a little ‘ethnic’. Like
I very much am aware of the fact that sometimes, the ratio of ‘me people’ to ‘white people’ is
1 to A LOT. Which is so so silly because for goodness sakes, I’ve been in Australia for almost
30 years (we migrated from Lebanon when I was three and a half). But in terms of direct
racism, no, never. Oh, although, I did visit Tamworth once with some cousins of mine and I
could swear that a group of girls at the pub were pointing at us. I think one of them mouthed
the words ‘Oh, they must be Sydney girls’. Maybe they just had an aversion to Sydney and
not necessarily Lebanese people. Who knows. As for racism in the arts? No. Maybe there
have been conversations and opportunities lost behind my back, but I choose to believe that
people are good and so I don’t invite that sort of treatment into my space.

Tell me the background of your first and last name.
Well, my first name comes from the Persian word ‘Nasrin’ meaning ‘wild rose’. So I’m
named after a flower which is great because one of my favourite shows is Keeping Up
Appearances and the four sisters in that are all named after flowers. A fact that makes me feel
that much closer to Hyacinth Bouquet. Not ‘Bucket’. (Only true fans of the show would get
that joke!) As for my last name, not too sure where that comes from. Somewhere in Lebanon
I imagine. My ancestor’s surnames were Maatouk so I think ‘Amine’ is an evolved version of
that. Oh, here’s a question: if my grandfather was born in Cuba to Lebanese parents, that
makes me a tiny bit Cuban, no? Am I allowed to claim that?

Wendy Strehlow

Wendy Strehlow

Nisrine Amine: You won a Logie for Best Supporting Actress in 1985 for your role of Judy Loveday in A Country Practice. Do you remember what that night was like and what you were feeling?
Wendy Strehlow: I do remember the night very well. Bill Collins and Anne Baxter gave me the Logie and
Country Practice won a swag of awards that night. I felt really proud of the show.

Having been in the industry for well over 30 years, what has been the one thing that has kept you coming back (despite the ARGHH that sometimes comes with being an actor)?
I have a passion for telling stories and I do feel like I have found my tribe. I love working
with actors and creatives and it gives me such joy to be able to do so.

What made you join the The Leftovers Collective?
I met Curly during Love’s Labours Lost by Sport for Jove and we clicked! I like the way he
thinks outside of the box and love exploring new ways of presenting Shakespeare.

Invasia is a social experiment in racism and rule playing at Hustle and Flow Bar Redfern on Australia Day. What does it mean to you to be an ‘Australian’?
My family came here from Europe and ended up in Central Queensland. I have always felt a little outside of things but to be Australian I want to be inclusive and compassionate because WE ALL CAME HERE FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE!!! This always was and always will be Aboriginal Land.

Tell us an interesting story about your name.
My last name is Strehlow, but it may have been anglicized from Stralov we think. Over the years misspelling and bad listening skills have morphed it into Strehlow.

Nisrine Amine and Wendy Strehlow can be seen in Invasia by The Leftovers Collective.
Dates: 26 Jan, 2017
Venue: Hustle & Flow Bar, Redfern

Review: The Adonis Procedure (The Leftovers Collective)

theleftoverscollectiveVenue: Hustle & Flow Bar (Redfern NSW), Nov 1, 2016
Devisors/Performers: Liam Benson, Curly Fries, Chantelle Jamieson, Tim Kemp, Lou Pollard, Courtney Stewart, Ronan Sulich, Paul Wilson
Image by William Suen

Theatre review
In a small bar, a drag queen by the name of Aphrodite greets us, as we gather to participate in a rare happening, a throwback to art events of the sixties that most have only read about. The performance is carried out by all in presence, as everyone is required to invest into the playacting that creates a scene of a high-status auction. First part of the show involves a series of presentations that investigate the 5 lots being put on sale. Classic Greek statues, brought to life by 5 actors emulating poses and reciting classic verse, while a cameraman zooms in tightly into a single spot on their bodies. A screen shows us skin and hair in hyperbolic detail. Thereafter, the crowd is encouraged to bid on the items, using money previously distributed by Aphrodite.

The crowd very quickly begins to pool their cash. We realise that these iconic objects are beyond the ownership of single persons. Entities begin to form, and wars break out over these relics of beauty. Ronan Sulic, the auctioneer from Christie’s is conducting the proceedings and we are all swept up in his verve and excitement, for the art, and for the money. Frantic contests to acquire esteemed works of art have occurred since the rise of the middle class, but it is an unusual episode for independent theatre and emerging artists. Our society values art, but not all of it. Money is channelled to certain people, while others languish in neglect. The system pretends to be based on merit, but it is not. In its alleged estimation of values such as beauty, skill and social significance, artists are placed in a triangular hierarchy that favours few and subjugates many. It is a problem of economic rationality, and a problem of applying capitalistic principles to how art comes to be in our lives.

When the crowd battles it out for their desired articles, it is the squabble that becomes the centre of attention, and any intrinsic qualities each statue might have had, fade into irrelevance. Art is social, and in this case, it is about who comes out on top, and who faces defeat. Of course, we all understand that great works should exist in the public domain, and not be controlled by individuals or organisations, but we are unable to fulfil that idealistic principle in how we actually carry out the business of art. Our institutions fail us, and our governments fail us. The increasing privatisation of everything in Australia, means that how we do art, is in accordance with how the elites will profit from all activity in the industry. The big guys are a dictatorship that determines the rules of what art should look like, and the small guys have to choose whether to submit to a career of emulation and placation. Forces in the economy want everyone to believe in the survival of the fittest, and when artists forget to question things, which is their most sacred purpose, art will die. In The Adonis Procedure however, subversion and interrogation of norms is its intent, and the key to making a kind of art that is lively, surprising, and necessary.