We’ve been taking a look at The Blue Room Theatre’s Summer Nights program of late – it’s filled with theatre and dance shows that have been put together as part of Fringe World. Intrigued by the play BirdBoy which is inspired by the true story of a Russian boy who was raised as a pet bird by his mother (!) we thought we’d have a chat to Ian Sinclair who is involved with the show. Ian is artistic director of The Wet Weather Ensemble which is the company that has put on Birdboy, and is a performer in his own right as well. He’s been working on BirdBoy for the last two years, including at a residency he had in New York. Now the time has come for Ian to put the finishing touches on his work, and for us to see the final product!
Ian Sinclair Developing BirdBoy during his New York residency at The Watermill Center.
Official job title: Performance and video artist… I also have three middle names.
Summarise your career background and how you’ve come to where you are now:
I’m artistic director of The Wet Weather Ensemble – a collective of performance and video artists based here in Perth. We’ve performed and toured several theatre shows including A Reptile Dreamed, The Bearskinner, Adam and Eve and our current Fringe World Festival show BirdBoy. Our work explores the human need to escape into fantasy. Life can be so hard that day dreaming or imagining alternative worlds is often the only way to get through. In our shows characters and people are constantly falling in and out of their private make-believe worlds.
Describe your workspace:
At the moment it’s covered in sketches, photos and writings on bird songs and bird movements. We are in the middle of constructing our set design for BirdBoy: which is a one bedroom apartment that’s meant to be filled with birds. So we’re getting pretty messy in the rehearsal room figuring out the best way to bring these creatures to life.
Ian Sinclair and Moana Lutton in BirdBoy during Ian’s New York residency at The Watermill Center.
What is the best thing about your job?
I get to be a kid again. I’m an only child so growing up I spent a lot of time by myself. Running around the backyard with a stick as a lightsaber. I’d spend hours drawing, building and acting out other worlds. Making a performance is really just constructing intricate and unexplored worlds – but with an audience.
Take us through a typical day of your work:
I don’t know if there is ever a typical day. It’s usually based on the project I’m involved with. At the moment it’s hot chocolate and emails to start the morning, then working on a looming arts grant, I’ll usually meet with the director Moya Thomas for lunch, talk about our plans for the rehearsal room. Rehearsals start late in the afternoon and long into the night. We’re a bunch of night-owls.
Tell us a bit more about BirdBoy, it’s quite intriguing!
It will be performed at PICA as part of The Blue Room Theatre Summer Nights. It’s based on this bizarre news article of a seven year old Russian boy who was raised in a cage by his mother. The mother had hundreds of captive birds and she treated her son as one these winged pets. So when he was finally discovered the only way he could communicate was through chirping and other forms of aviation communication. We’ve used this as a jumping off point; we’ve tried to tell the story from the boy’s point of view. It’s a real tragi-comedy. BirdBoy is really all about how to communicate whether you’re a bird or human or something in between. I play the role of the mother – which is terrifying because I’m in a blonde wig and a dress and because she’s pretty diabolical character.
Ian Sinclair as BirdBoy’s Mother in rehearsals.
What has been your proudest achievement?
Each new show is always an achievement and something to be proud of. I’ve been developing BirdBoy for almost two years now. It’s been a big journey from an international residency in New York, several creative developments and grants. So I think when I step on stage – in my blonde wig and dress it’ll be my proudest moment to date.
Which local artists/musicians/creatives do you admire?
James Berlyn, Weeping Spoon Productions, Side Pony Productions, Night Train Productions, Tarryn Gill and Pilar Mata Dupont, Benjamin Forster, Jackson Eaton, Celine Bridge, Ta-Ku, Rabbit Island, Kit Pop, James Ireland, Ben Taaffe and Good Company. The list could go on.
BirdBoy promotional image, photograph by Jackson Eaton.
Any advice for those trying to enter into the creative community in Perth?
To go and see cultural events. Go to live gigs, local art shows, performances and see what’s being created. That’s a great first step.
What do you love about Perth?
The dreamy summer days followed by the warm and weird night time adventures.
Alicia Osyka in BirdBoy during Ian’s residency at The Watermill Centre.
What does Perth need?
To be more adventurous. To take more risks as a city.
Most frequented coffee spot?
Best live music venue?
Up north or down south?
Kalbarri or camping around Serpentine Falls. Ian.
Ian Sinclair as Adam in Adam and Eve.
BirdBoy is showing at PICA Performance Space as part of The Blue Room Theatre’s Summer Nights program for Fringe World on February 11, 12, 13, 14 and 16. Find out more and purchase tickets over at the Summer Nights website.