It’s a long way from Bettws, Wales and the farmlands near Bundaberg, Central Queensland to Albury-Wodonga, but one artistic couple has decided to make this region their home.
Border Cafe’s Robyne Young caught up with Associate Artist with the Flying Fruit Fly Circus, Kyle Walmsley, and Teaching Artist, Alyson Evans, about their newfound love for the region, and how their individual journeys led them to the Border.
Alyson, it’s a very long way from Wales to Albury-Wodonga via Darwin. What led you here?
I studied performing arts and theatre in Wales and developed a really big interest in community based or applied theatre.
“Last year I took some time to consolidate a lot of my experience in France at clown school….”
In 2011 I started to look for opportunities in Australia. I had travelled in Australia a few years before and really fell in love with the Northern Territory.
Darwin Community Arts kept coming up so I just contacted them and they were particularly interested in ‘Theatre of the Oppressed’ type of work which I kind of specialise in, so I spent six weeks running some facilitator training for local artists, teachers and community workers.
Six years later I am still in Australia.
And Kyle, you also made a move to Darwin as an actor, met Alyson, then went to Sydney. How did you both end up in Albury?
I had only ever been here for one night, but I saw that HotHouse Theatre had a job going as Creative Learning Producer. I knew the history of HotHouse and the interesting role it played in the theatre landscape in Australia. It was just a 12-month contract, but I was really excited to take it on.
It was also a gateway into finding out what other opportunities were in the area, so when Alyson moved here, she wasn’t sitting at home twiddling her thumbs; there was a whole platter of work for her to do as well.
Alyson were you surprised at the opportunities that were here?
Even though I didn’t know this region, having lived in a regional area before I had to trust that there would be some work and in a way, more than Sydney. In Sydney there’s a load more opportunities but it’s harder to get work there.
I had worked with the Sydney Theatre Company as a Teaching Artist and they run their School Drama program in this region as well, so I knew I had that work. Then I just trusted other things would come up and they did.
What are your latest projects?
Over the next two years I’m going to be working a lot with Outback Theatre for Young People (OTYP) based in Deniliquin. With them I’ll be working with communities across various regional areas in NSW to build infrastructure for arts programs so after the two years when OTYP leaves that region, there will be an ongoing arts program there. So that’s really exciting.
Kyle, in 2016 you had the opportunity to workshop with the world renowned French Master Clown and Professor of Theatre E’cole Phillipe Gaulier. How does that experience fit in with your new role at the Flying Fruit Fly Circus?
Last year I took some time to consolidate a lot of my experience in France at clown school with Phillipe Gaulier, who has taught the likes of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter and a lot of other industry elite.
It was a very intense, very exciting, very scary experience but hugely formative for me in coming back from there and feeling like I have my pathway for the next 10 years of working with young people with clowning, physical and visual theatre performance.
So, I’ve been able to bring back that very intensive experience and share that in the circus school that we just happen to have in the region. It’s incredibly gratifying and feels like the universe has beckoned me to do just this job.
It’s awesome to be able to support them in being able to discover their own comedic style and unique things that they can bring to their performance, especially when previously they may have seen themselves as more athletic, gymnastics technicians.
Work is one thing, but what do you enjoy about the lifestyle of this region?
Kyle: We love it. Saturday morning we can decide whether we’ll go to Hub 62 in Chiltern or Saint Monday in Yackandandah and all of these cute little ‘go to’ spots.
Here weekends feel like weekends. In Sydney every day is like a work day. Here you’re exploring or you’re relaxing. This sounds like a cliché, but it’s a nice work-life balance. There are physical reminders of switching off. You can work and then you can leave the town when you’re not at work.
And the other thing I notice is that I do so much more exercise here because I walk and ride everywhere. It’s got to be so much better for my cholesterol and my heart!