Written, directed and choreographed by: Nicola Gunn
Performed by: Nicola Gunn and five children
Sound composition and design by: Duane Morrison
Lighting design by: Thomas Bruvik
Video design by: Martyn Coutts and Nicola Gunn
Co-produced by: Bit Teatergarasjen, Rosendal Teater and Carte Blanche, Norway’s national contemporary dance company
Working with Children was originally commissioned and produced by Melbourne Theatre Company.
Working with Children looks at the problem of intimacy and exposure by exploring the curiosity of artists who make contemporary performance with children for an adult audience. In a work that is both funny and surprisingly affective, it is an attempt to perform a kind of joyful vulnerability. With a seemingly unconnected collection of anecdotes that spin around a central core without ever naming it, the audience is invited to wonder about the effect of language on the body and the nature of performance as five children learn choreography live in front of them.
Through this accumulation of purposeless movements that are slowly built up and pieced together and a tangential, divergent monologue with vaguely orbiting ideas about appropriateness, shame, what we look to protect children from, ethics, empathy and imagination, language and power, there is a tension between the insistence of making narrative and the resistance or impossibility of finding one, playing with the idea that we can find a different way of behaving by finding a different way of inquiring and of listening. And the children emerge better prepared than their live-copying suggests.
Nicola Gunn is a writer, director, performer, designer and dramaturg. She has been responsible for realising her own projects from conception to realisation since 2002. She makes live performances, videos, objects, site-specific installations, and books, but her predominant medium has been in solo performance. These works are philosophical and text-based; she borrows from theatrical, choreographic, literary, comedic, and visual art languages to create a mode of contemporary performance that plays with form and pursues a narrative. She is interested in people, relationships and story first and foremost and how to use language simply to convey a hidden and modest complexity.
Nicola’s work has been presented widely in Australia and has toured to France, Norway, Finland, Austria, Italy, Portugal, Chile, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United States, UK, Switzerland and Sweden. Recent works include Piece for Person and Ghetto Blaster (2015), Mermermer (2016), In Spite of Myself (2013), Passenger (2017) and Green Screen (2014). She is presently developing two new works in Bergen, Norway: a word is not a thing alongside NY-based artist Aaron Landsman, and a new large-scale performance installation in collaboration with architect Cristian Stefanescu. Nicola is the recipient of an Australia Council for the Arts Creative Australia Fellowship, an Australia Council Theatre Fellowship, a Sidney Myer Fellowship and a Churchill Fellowship.
“Gunn’s monologues are sinuous and whimsical and seriously brilliant – they have the daring, timing and flow of the highest level of stand-up comedy, … no one ever told a smelly vagina story, or a tiny penis gag, with such sophistication and ambivalence.” (Sydney Morning Herald)
“Bizarrely, perhaps, her humour reminds me of Jane Austen, who also wrangled a very sharp needle in her micro-tapestries of daily middle class life.” (witnessperformance.com)