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In Conversation with Victorian Theatre Company

We welcome back Victorian Theatre Company next month with their intimate production of LOW by Daniel Keene at Explosives Factory. Company director and actor Matthew Connell, director Jennifer Dean and composer Thomas Kunz tell us about the inception of VTC, how they discovered LOW and what audiences can expect from their latest production.

Q: Can you tell us about the inception of Victorian Theatre Company and your roles within the company? Matt: Victorian Theatre Company is a romp of artists from the disciplines of film and theatre. We formed in 2020 and have since created work that draws from both of these artistic mediums to explore a new way of storytelling. In our team we have a composer/sound designer, a cinematographer, photographer, director, producer and actor. We began with a radio play (Hamlet), a theatre/film hybrid (Enoch Arden) and after two cancelled seasons, we finally opened our first live show (The Darkening Sky) in March and we can't wait to follow it up with LOW. My role in VTC is Company Director as well as Actor. We have also created and run SCENE - an online streaming service for Melbourne-made filmed theatre, radio plays, films, documentaries & podcasts.

Q: How did you come about ‘LOW’ by Daniel Keene and what was it that instigated the desire to stage this work in 2022?

Matt: One afternoon, years ago, I sat in the State Library and began reading my way through Daniel Keene's catalogue of work. I was frustrated at the scarcity of theatrical work that I longed to see and be a part of, so afternoons of reading like this on my own, was fairly common. I don't know how many Keene plays I read that afternoon, but one in particular seemed to jump off the page and grab me by the throat. It was a story about two young lovers who are totally forgotten and discarded by society and are desperately trying to make sense of the world they find themselves in. They begin robbing servos to get a little money, and a brutal, enlightening journey ensues. It was written one year before I was born, yet these characters spoke to me absolutely in the here and now.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the creative team you have assembled to work on this project?

Matt: Directing this production we have the visionary Jennifer Sarah Dean. As Artistic Director of Melbourne Shakespeare Company, I have seen firsthand how capable Jennifer is of taking poetry, and using theatrical tools to bring it to life with immediacy and punch. The show is acted by Veronica Thomas and myself. Veronica is a guest to VTC and is someone I have wanted to work with for over ten years. Her interrogation of character and text makes for something really magical onstage. Set & costume, as well as graphic design and photography is being done by Chelsea Neate. Everything visually, from the promotional videos to the clothes that we wear onstage comes from her unique response to the play. Kris Chainey is our lighting designer - audiences will recognise his work from our last show The Darkening Sky. His punk noir lighting aesthetic for LOW grounds the production in a dangerous Melbourne... evoking dark alleyways and unforgiving streets. Thomas Kunz is scoring the piece - delivering an original soundtrack that firmly sets the piece in 1991 Australia. Lastly, we have our stage manager Harry Dowling, who is logistically tying this all together with a masterful hand.

Q: The 28 poems will be supported by an original score by Thomas Kunz – can you take us through the process of composing new music for this work?

Matt: I'll hand over this question to our sound designer...

Tom: I find the best way to compose music for a piece is to be a conduit for the director. I speak with them to get an idea of their vision as well as ask for that's known as reference tracks - songs which sit in the wheelhouse for the vibe they are after. Once I have this information I just sit in the studio, compose and produce and send it to the director for feedback. I think that this way creates the lease amount of friction and ends up with the best result. After speaking with Jen we decided that focusing on music that feels like it comes from the 90's would be the best direction for setting the scene.

Q: LOW will be performed at Theatre Works' new venue Explosives Factory - what can you tell us about how you might use the intimacy of the space and the proximity between performers and audience?

Matt: I'll hand over this question to our director Jennifer...

Jen: When seeking a performance venue for LOW we knew we wanted an intimate space that would allow the audience to be immersed in the world of the story. It was important to us not to create distance between the audience and the action but instead make the audience an active participant, equally on show and present rather than hidden behind a proscenium arch. By using thrust staging and having the audience at such close proximity to the action, audiences will be truly immersed in Jay and Emma's tragic love story as it unfolds, allowing them to connect with the characters in a way that is not possible in a larger venue.

Q: Can you summarise LOW in 5 words?

Matt: Dark, honest, passionate, love story.

LOW By Daniel Keene 8-12 NOV BOOK HERE


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