After a highly successful run in 2020, local production Five Stubbies For A Six-Pack is making its Fringe World debut this year, hitting Hayman Theatre at Curtin University from Friday, January 29 until Friday, February 5 (get more info and tickets here). The one-act comedy provides a snapshot into your local bottle shop, and the lives of the customers who frequent it, as themes like honesty, vulnerability and community are brought to light in a seemingly familiar and relatable setting. BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with writer and director Nelson Fannon (pictured) to find out how he went about taking real-life experiences from working at a bottle shop and bringing them to life on stage.

Apart from the excitement of this being your Fringe World debut, how is this show different from any that you have worked on before?

Taking on the role of writer and director has been the major difference compared to other shows I’ve worked on. The responsibility to construct a play that reflects a sense of truth and honesty was the driving force in my directorial vision. In all of my previous work, I had worked from the actor’s perspective. Instead of working on characters from the inside-out, this time I had to consider the audience’s perspective, working from the outside-in to find that sweet spot of effective storytelling.

The play is written semi-verbatim, so it took hours of research to bring a sense of reality. It was a challenge, but I enjoyed every minute of it and appreciate the lessons I have learned as a theatre maker.

Where did the idea for this show come from? And how did you go about researching for it?

The idea for this show spurred from real-life interactions I had working in a bottle shop over the last few years. Every shift I encountered fascinating individuals, and it wasn’t until I had a conversation with an older woman, whose story features in the play, that I decided to start writing a script.

I felt that these people’s stories, their authenticity, humour, and vulnerability, deserved to be brought to life on stage. At the core of everyone I met was a strong, honest heart and universal desire for family and belonging. I appreciated their willingness to share the truth of their successes and conflicts.

I felt like I was in a really unique position, with an insight into these people’s lives, so I urged myself to continue the conversations and learn what I could from each person I spoke to.

You must see all kinds of things, and kinds of people working in a bottle shop. What was an experience that got you thinking about how it could be adapted to the stage? And are any of the characters in the show inspired by people you encountered in real life?

The lady I spoke about earlier was the catalyst for my playwriting. She walked into the shop and before I could even say “Good afternoon,” she blurted out “Have you ever heard of a narcissist?” She went on to tell me all about her experiences of love and heartbreak and as soon as she left, I jotted down everything I could remember so that I could start writing the character into my play. What’s interesting to me is that often people will come into the shop not too bothered about the alcohol they are buying, instead they are there to open up and talk about their life to someone who will listen.

Who are the people you have brought on board to help you bring this show to life on stage? And why were they a great fit for this kind of show? 

I have an amazing crew who I have worked with very closely on this project. Some of the team have been on board since I initially held auditions for the Curtin University production in March 2020 and others have come onto the project specifically for Fringe.

Each member of the cast and crew has brought their own perspective to the show and added another layer of reality and vulnerability to a set of characters and circumstances that were already based on real-life experiences. Without their contribution, the show would not have found such success!

It seems like a lot of the shows for Fringe World 2021 are featuring students from Curtin, are there any more productions coming from your end of town we should particularly look out for?

My cast and crew, who are both Curtin students and Perth independent theatre-makers, have quite a few projects coming up at Fringe and beyond! To name a few; unBALANCED Production’s Bring Out Your Dead is a Fringe Weekly Award Winner, and Help! There’s a Yugoslavian in my Fridge are some shows to look out for!

One of our actors is currently down south performing in Bunbury’s Fringe Festival in A View from the Park by Noel O’Neill. In April, four of my current team, including myself, will also be performing in The Producers at the Regal Theatre.

And what is next for you and your team for the rest of 2021 and beyond? Are there plans to take this show beyond Fringe World, or even, something entirely new in the pipeline?

First and foremost, my plan is to complete my Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts this year. But alongside that we are hoping to take Five Stubbies for a Six-Pack on the road; first for a regional tour then hopefully, borders and funding permitting, a national one.

I plan to continue writing, as I have drawn inspiration from bringing true stories to life on stage, so possibly by Fringe 2022 there will be a new play in the works!