Showing at the State Theatre Centre of WA from 12-29 October, I Am My Own Wife is a powerful play that examines the true life of German antiquarian Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. Born Lothar Berfelde, she killed her father when she was 12 years old, was sentenced to four years in juvenile prison and survived the Nazi regime and then in East Berlin the German Communist secret police, in plain sight as a transvestite.
The inimitable Brendan Hanson plays over 30 characters, and the ubiquitous Joe Lui fills the role of director, composer and sound designer. So you’ll believe us when we say that set and costume designer Cherish Marrington is in great company as she works with Black Swan for the first time for this production. Claire chatted with the WAAPA graduate, who gets her kicks from tackling design puzzles, to discuss her career and the upcoming show.
Official Job Title: Freelance Theatre Designer.
When did you decide that was the career for you?
When I was studying Fine Art and preparing to graduate in 2010, I knew that I didn’t really want to finish learning just yet and really wanted to find a more wondrous outlet for the specific art I was creating. I wanted to specialize in design, specifically design for the theatre and was overjoyed to be invited to study at WAAPA. It was quite the adventure indeed. I was tired every day though!
What do you love about your job?
I get pretty turned on by solving ridiculously difficult design puzzles that challenge mental strength and the ability to think differently (if something seems easy or when everything is running smoothly then I become suspicious!) I enjoy research because the things you encounter by accident can often turn into life-changing surprises.
Specifically, I get off on costume design – I am a people-watcher and character inventor. How can costume enhance expression, movement? And for example, if it is a period-specific piece than you must research with so much intensity until the time comes that you think you are ready to design as though you were a designer from that era.
I Am My Own Wife costume design by Cherish Marrington.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Everything in equal parts! Because nothing is easy if you are aiming to ace it and also, you know, striving for originality.
When you come to design a production like I Am My Own Wife, can you describe the creative process? Do you start with a brief?
Words cannot express how glad I am to be working again with director Joe Lui, who seems to still trust my design abilities, but also know what he wants. After the initial meeting, I try to return with at least three vastly different concepts, produced after days and nights of research and inner turmoil. Then we kind of ricochet off of each other’s wild ideas until it is time to finally settle on a goddamn concept. Such a great and open-minded human to collaborate with!
Costume by Cherish Marrington for Selkie, shown at the Blue Room Theatre in 2016.
Do you have a particular aesthetic, or favourite styles to design in, or does it genuinely change with each production?
I definitely keep my design work production-specific as I wouldn’t like to become a one trick pony but I like to think that I get requested to collaborate for my particular Cherish Marrington flair?
Tell us about what’s in store for I Am My Own Wife:
Hopefully, we get all the ticket sales and glory so that everyone can continue to make art and be happy and well-fed.
What do you love about Perth?
This is a beautiful place to live and there are new things to like about it every so often. I’ve met some truly exquisite humans here, and perhaps out of sheer boredom people become so very inventive and interesting. That is precisely when greatness is formed.
What does Perth need?
Perhaps more late night restaurants for the artistic night owls; give me less overachieving themed décor and more actual tasty, edible stuff.
Set and costume design by Cherish Marrington for The Critic.
Best live music venue?
Obviously The Bird: firstly because I am a creature of habit and secondly because there’s some good fries to be eaten there. It is also a place in which my budgerigar has been warmly welcomed.
Favourite café and standard order?
Kafka Coffee Shop! I heard a rumour that an extra sassy and tasty toasted sandwich is being released quite soon. It is also a place unafraid to, once upon a time, garnish their walls with some of my most unsettling horror erotica.
Perth’s best-kept secret?
If I told you I’d have to kill you; however, here’s a list of some of my favourite activities:
– hanging out at Pickers and Collectors Bazaar (especially when there are free American hotdogs!);
– late night strolls through a deserted Spudshed to clear my mind whilst choosing near expired foods with obscure yet exciting packaging;
– interacting with the friendly pet reptiles at Johnny Ma Studios;
– ordering 12 apple pies on Ubereats to see how many I can eat before actually perishing;
– drinking expensive champagne at cheap restaurants;
– taking my pet budgie to local pubs and sometimes getting kicked out; and
– meeting friends at Chinatown that also can’t sleep and sketching together while eating special fried rice (or, if I have more energy, seedy karaoke bars).
There is so much magic in the world/Perth. If you cannot find it then the problem is you. Cherish
I Am My Own Wife shows at Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA from 12-29 October 2017. Tickets are available through Ticketek.