Hatching from the darkly creative minds of Malthouse Theatre Artistic Director Matthew Lutton, choreographer Stephanie Lake and Sydney-based writer Emme Hoy, Monsters – described as a thrilling fever dream and promising more than a few chills and thrills – was born because of Lutton’s and Lake’s desire to work together.
“We’re both very interested in how to bring together dance, theatre, and design in unexpected ways,” says Lutton. “I proposed the idea of a gothic monologue for one actor and dancers, and then I reached out to writer Emme Hoy, and as a trio we started to create the work together.”
The project has been three years of development with writer Hoy refining the monologue through many drafts but choreography has only been created when they are all in the same room together. “So all the individual parts are coming together at the eleventh hour,” explains Lutton.
Over four brief adrenalin filled acts, Alison Whyte (Cloudstreet, The Bloody Chamber), portrays a woman who goes searching for her sister in a chasm that has opened below a city. Conjuring the journey deep into the cavern through haunting text, she encounters metaphoric monsters and a literal monster on the way down.
To help conjure the hallucinations and horrors that echo in the mind, Lutton credits Hoy’s writing saying it has an incredible poetry and suspense to it. “She has a great gift for finding the right poetic combination of language to paint images that are both beautiful and monstrous,” says Lutton. “When discussing the story we spoke about the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, Angela Carter, and Poe, but this story is entirely Hoy. What I love about her writing is that it seduces and terrifies me, and I find more interpretations in it every time I read it.”
In this adrenaline filled collaboration with Stephanie Lake Company, Alison Whyte is joined on stage by dancers Samantha Hines, Josie Weise, and Kimball Wong. “The choreography is essential in the work,” says Lutton. “Steph and I always spoke about creating a text that felt incomplete and choreography that felt incomplete, and only in their union did they feel like a whole. But in saying that, the choreography is magnificent in its own right. It expresses what it means to look at yourself honestly and see the monsters within, it is powerful it the way it shows our ability to find beauty in darkness, and it is virtuosic for the performers.”
Lutton has long been an admirer of both Lake and Hoy with a desire to work with both a long time goal.
” Stephanie Lake is a choreographer who I admired as soon as I moved to Melbourne 10 years ago. I saw her show Dual and immediately wanted to be in her presence. Emme is a writer whose work I heard about after she wrote the monologues for Sarah Snook in Saint Joan at Sydney Theatre Company, and I met with her in London after the premiere of Solaris, and I was immediately inspired by the way she understood how to write the gothic genre.”
Monsters is more than a thriller explains Lutton saying there are a lot of metaphors in the piece.
” I’m trying not to highlight them too much in the production and to let them sit there for the audience to discover. A big part of the story is about the need to confront what scares us (the need to go into the dark and be honest with what we see); another part of the story is about how to confront your monstrousness and not become a monster yourself. Like all good scary stories, it’s all about the monstrous parts of ourselves that we hide and prefer not to confront.
But narratively, this is a rescue story. It’s about a woman who goes into a sinkhole to rescue her sister, and comes obsessed with recuing her, to the point that her obsession to save her sister becomes dangerous.”
Lutton is a multi faceted theatre practitioner specializing as a director for Australian theatre and opera. As a creative, he likes exploring extremities and the fantastical. “I like to think of theatre as a place where your dreams, your unconsciousness, can find form and be shared with others,” he says. “I’m not generally drawn to an exploration of the domestic or the daily, I prefer a dreamscape.”
Says Lutton about Monsters: ” This is a show that is full of adrenaline and needs to be seen live. It’s a scary rescue story where a woman is trying to save her sister and becomes obsessed with the quest to rescue someone. It has extraordinary dance, it makes you gasp, and it’s the sort of show that needs to be seen live in a theatre.”
Lutton, Lake and Hoy have created a chilling adventure into the darkness that takes the stage in Malthouse’s Merlyn Theatre from 24 November to 11 December.
Images: Tamarah Scott