Proximity Festival 2013

Published on October 16, 2013
Categories - Blog, Events, Q&A, Read About

Last year, two very awesome local creatives, Sarah Rowbottam and James Berlyn, got together to create this unique and innovative festival. Proximity is a theatre experience unlike any other where the audience for each performance is made up of just one member, YOU. Returning for 2013 from 26 October to 2 November, there are three programs that you can choose to attend (or all three, why not?) which are made up of short and diverse experiences.

Co-curator James Berlyn explains where the inspiration for this project came from:

I had been successfully touring a one-on-one work to several national arts festivals. After 20 years of performing, I realised in order to be successful to tour work outside of WA, performances needed to be small and portable. Although platforms existed in the UK, I realised there wasn’t really a dedicated platform in Perth to present one-on-one performance. So in 2011 I decided to put the idea out there and was lucky enough to convince two incredible people, co-curator and producer Sarah Rowbottam and provocateur Kelli Mccluskey, to build and realise the Proximity Festival model.

This is quite a new experience for Perth audiences, but the public embraced the Festival with open arms last year and has continued to do so this year, with ticket sales through the roof. Due to the intimate nature of the shows, places are seriously limited and filling up fast.

Sure, the inaugural year was a success, but there are always lessons to be learned when doing something for the first time. James reveals that with any project like this, it is always more work than you think, but when the work is great and response is a good one, it’s definitely worth it. In fact, James and Sarah have already started preparing for the 2014 Festival – will they ever get to take a break?

Proximity Festival 2013 photo by Cameron Etchells

Photo by Cameron Etchells.

In terms of the preparation, Sarah tells us that after the 2013 season at The Blue Room Theatre, they quickly saw the potential for cross-discipline collaboration and exchange between each artist. “This year we added a two-week LAB prior to the performance season,” she explains. “Each day of the LAB is structured around a theme with opportunities for artists to generate performative experiments and short works. Artists also have time to develop and test their Proximity performances in-situ with their provocateurs and one another.”

So what’s in store for attendees at this year’s Proximity Festival? Sarah takes us through the three programs:

In Program A participants will be led through a series of plant experiments by a curious botanic guide, consult Remains Management Services and decide what you would like to do with your bodily remains, be immersed in a percussion soundscape made just for you, and experience a story blind-folded.

In Program B participants will enter a room of infinite possibilities with a dancer, hang in a time-capsule of 20-something domestic bliss and watch VHS, consciously experience their bodies’ final hours, and bring to life a marionette with a puppeteer.

Program C involves destroying an artwork and making another, playing a game of hunt or be hunted, meditating with an artist, and leaving a temporary trace of yourself in the Gallery of Impermanent Things.

Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? James also points out that “every show is unique and different every time it is performed. Nobody but you and the artist really knows what went on in your show.” And while it’s a performance, some shows might leave you with something tangible.

Proximity Festival 2013 photo by Cameron Etchells

Photo by Cameron Etchells.

On 26 October, there will also be a free opening party at PICA bar called PARTY FOR 1 featuring an additional set of live, one-on-one performances conceived by James and Sarah and performed by eight WA artists. The PICA courtyard will be turned into a Blue Light Disco on the night, complete with rad DJs and MCs, a Tuck Shop and a few hidden surprises. This is a FREE event by RSVP only

Plus, as part of the 2013 program the team are running a free symposium to discuss the nature of one-on-one performance, its potential, its limits and more. Head here to find out more and register your interest.

Not sure if it’s for you? “Great art can be on any scale and at any distance,” remarks James. “Here it exists in the almost magic space of just one artist with just one audience member. Anyone who’s interested in quality work outside of traditional settings should definitely come along.” Provided you’re over 18 years of age, that is. And if you’re shy? Rest assured that even though activating the audience is the focus of these works, Sarah and James have taken great care in selecting what will be performed, with the audience experience of these works in the forefront of their minds. Sarah promises that “Although performances are participatory and experiential, it is always by invitation. We try to warn audience members about potential situations that could be confronting – being in complete darkness, physical touch, nudity, handling open flames, using fake weaponry etc. It’s a tricky balance between being up-front and not giving everything away.”

As we mentioned, tickets are strictly limited and are selling fast. Head over to the Proximity Festival website to find out more about the shows and the artists involved, and to book your tickets.

Heading to a performance? We’d love to hear about it!



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