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Lally Katz's 'The Eisteddfod' Q&A with Cast, Director & Old Fitz Producer

'The Eisteddfod' is set to make its debut with the Old Fitz Theatre in May. Hear from the cast, director and producer of this production of Katz's black comedy.


The Old Fitz Theatre is set to take audiences into a whimsically surreal world of Lally Katz's The Eisteddfod as it takes center stage this May. With its intriguing blend of magical realism, baffling absurdism, and a queer narrative, this black comedy promises to captivate audiences with its poignant exploration of storytelling, survival, and the human condition.


Gerture and Abalone are agoraphobic. Left alone to their own devices after the tragic death of their parents in a tree pruning accident, they prepare to win ‘the eisteddfod’ with the performance of a lifetime; Macbeth. As the siblings’ stark reality coalesces with the darkly playful world of their imaginations, Lally Katz’s beloved black comedy The Eisteddfod makes it almost impossible to discern which is which.


Theatre Thoughts spoke with producer and cast member Ziggy Resnick, director Jess Bell, and Emma Wright from the Old Fitz Theatre to explore the creative process, thematic depths of the play, and the unique challenges of bringing The Eisteddfod to life.


The Eisteddfod - Old Fitz Theatre

 

What inspired you to bring Lally Katz’s The Eisteddfod to the stage, and what drew you to this particular piece?

 

RESNICK: I have been drawn to The Eisteddfod for a few years; I would find myself coming back to it every few months and each time I would find the piece was completely changed, the meaning revised, interpretations renewed. Until I realised, perhaps it was me that was changed. It seems to me, a piece that reflects back to you something you perhaps are pontificating, echoing sentiments you perhaps need to hear, are unwilling to absorb or sometimes puts words to a feeling you haven’t previously been able to articulate.


When I read work I know it speaks to me, but sometimes I don’t really know why. It took bringing this work to life, with deeply thoughtful and visionary directors; Miranda Middleton and Jess Bell and the generous, playful actor Fraser Crane uncover that perhaps this piece is touching on something that echoes through my body, my heart, as I move into a no-longer-early-20s-human (oh moses) — that choosing to dedicate my life to storytelling was not a choice, it was an innate need. Like Abalone, it is create or perish. 


 The Eisteddfod is described as a black comedy that blurs the line between reality and imagination. How did you approach balancing the darker themes with moments of humour?


BELL: Good question. Thankfully Ziggy and Fraser both have an excellent sense of humour. I once heard a saying that went something along the lines of “Comedy is a joy to perform, but a bastard to rehearse; and Drama is a pain in the ass to perform and a joy to rehearse.” There’s a grave seriousness and candour that sits underneath black comedy, personally it’s my favourite brand of humour. Duration, extension, precision, specificity; these have become our friends, for better or for worse.


I heard another saying (for Pete’s sake), that goes, “Life is lived forwards, and understood backwards.” How do we find ourselves laughing at events in our personal histories which once made us sob into our sleeves and cover ourselves in snot? Comedy is tragedy plus time. Part of the brilliance of Lally Katz’ work is the invitation to join an outrageous game of “yes, and”-- it’s a joy to watch.


For me, what helps the dance between fantasy and reality is the introduction of an initially nefarious goal, scoff-worthy to most at first, and over time, we find ourselves buying in and connecting. The heightened, whimsical “pretend” becomes more appealing, purposeful and compelling than reality.


Lally encourages us to keep creating, regardless of the outcome or how the ‘maker’ perceives its value.

 

The Old Fitz have taken a new direction this year with re-introducing late night shows to the space. How do you think this will help to broaden the theatre space within Sydney and what does it offer to audiences?


WRIGHT: Reviving the Late Night program at the Fitz was on the top of Lucy and I's bucket-list when taking on management of the iconic venue in Jan 2024. Lucy was afforded her first opportunity as a director via the Fitz's Late Night program, and we both know countless other artists who share similar stories. And as independent artists, we know all too well that access to space is one of the biggest challenges we face, and so it's important that we're doing what we can to activate our little pub basement theatre as much as humanly possible.


The Late Night program means that we essentially triple our programming opportunities for artists, and we are able to offer audiences more variety, and the chance to experience cutting-edge, boundary-pushing work led by Sydney's finest emerging talent. 


(From Left) Lucy Clements - Artistic Director & Emma Wright - Executive Producer. Old Fitz Theatre

 

As both a producer and a member of the cast, how do you navigate the dual roles and responsibilities in bringing this production to the stage?

 

RESNICK: Help. Lots of it. Monique Placko, my co-producer and the whole creative team are truly a testament to young emerging creators’ hat-swapping, juggling, multi-tasking abilities. Emma [Wright] and Lucy Clements generously took a chance on me cutting my little baby teeth on this Late Night Slot and have been guiding and mentoring me. They have been doing nothing short of the utmost - going above and beyond even while producing, acting, directing the absolutely ingenious Frame Narrative, and uh, I dont know, literally taking over The (iconic) Old Fitz with the ease and grace that only the best possess.


Frame Narrative - New Ghosts Theatre Company. Image: Phil Erbacher
Frame Narrative - New Ghosts Theatre Company. Image: Phil Erbacher

I count my lucky stars I have had the privilege to be learning from the two brilliant women who make up New Ghosts Theatre Company. My goal in learning to produce is to create art that speaks to the ever-changing so-called “Australian” landscape, and forges a way for inclusive, innovative, accessible art practice that prioritises the unheard voices, and unseen bodies and makes space for young, queer, gender fluid humans. For us, by us. And I remember this when the going gets tough. That I am here for a reason. That I am working towards something bigger than myself. 


What do you hope audiences will take away from experiencing this production, particularly in terms of the themes of storytelling and survival?


BELL: Remember Covid lockdown? I do, too. Although, it feels like a blur. One of the curious takeaways was that I found myself, for the first time in years, reading. Exclusively fiction, front to back cover. I think the collective leant on story heavily then, and has ever since. I suppose we always have, but particularly in crisis.


I live with an Emergency Doctor who’s hooked on stories of all kinds. When she walks down the hallway after night shift I can hear her phone echo the plotlines of whatever show she’s watching. Stories are guides to living. For Abalone and Gerture, agoraphobic siblings who play out their adult longings and anxieties in a controlled arena of their own making, story gives life purpose and meaning. For Abalone, they must create or they will perish.


Perhaps a takeaway question is this: How do we find ways out of the prisons of our own making? Lally encourages us to keep creating, regardless of the outcome or how the ‘maker’ perceives its value. Equally, she urges that the sharing of the work is vital, too– to get up and out of self. Isolation does not a happy artist or happy human, make. It all sounds very serious, doesn’t it? Thank God for silliness. That’s another one. Find the silly, find the absurd – and savour it. Happy days.  

 

Dates + Ticketing


Season: May 21 - 31

Note- preview is 21/05, opening night (invite only) is 22/05


Times: 9.15pm Tues-Sat, 7.30pm Sun

Ticket Prices:

  • Preview: $20 + booking fee

  • General Admission: $25 + booking fee

Approximate Run Time: 50 minutes

Content Warnings: this production contains references to domestic violence, suicide, death, and sex.


Note: The Eisteddfod is part of the Old Fitz Theatre’s 2024 Late Night program and will take to the stage after the Mainstage team have taken their bows. Booking a ticket to both a paired Mainstage and Late Night show will automatically apply a 20% discount to your Late Night ticket at checkout.


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