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Have you ever seen theatre by the poolside? No? Well, get ready to put that on your list of things to do in Perth this summer, because you can with The Blue Room Theatre’s Summer Nights 2018 program, all part of FRINGE WORLD. The show in the pool is called 19 Weeks, and it’s just one of the thirty trailblazing works on offer across the month of Fringuary. Blue Room Producer Jenna Mathie takes CICELY BINFORD through some of the program’s highlights and gives us an idea of what to expect.

“This Summer Nights I’m really excited about all the local shows that we’ve got in the program,” Mathie says.

Over 50% of the shows are homegrown in WA with some new independent theatre companies making debut works, like Static Drive Co. with Night Sweats, a “visually stunning fever dream” and Bow & Dagger with The Beast and the Bride, an “erotic horror fairy tale for the modern feminist.”

Outside of the locally-made shows, Mathie looks forward to presenting the aforementioned 19 Weeks from South Australia and the critically-acclaimed UK hit Fleabag, a solo written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge that inspired the BBC series of the same name, to local audiences. “[Fleabag] is angry, it’s confrontational, cruel, it’s totally relentless…it’s in the same kind of comedic storytelling style as [The Last Great Hunt’s] FAG/STAG and BALI.”

19 Weeks comes to us from playwright Emily Steel, who tells her complex, sad and funny story while in the pool. Mathie saw the show at Adelaide Fringe this year, and she says, “on the surface it’s about a woman terminating her pregnancy, but what’s so beautiful about it is that the pool becomes the second character in the work. It’s about compassion, human decency and the isolation you can feel when making those tough, heartbreaking decisions.” We’re invited to “sit by the pool, put your feet in the water, and listen.”

“The current wave of works traveling the Fringe circuit seem to be focussing on the intimate: works that are preferencing smaller spaces and telling really personal stories,” Mathie says. Summer Nights features seven solo female performances, including all 5 of their international works, which has been a big focus of theirs this year.

The Summer Nights program always brings plenty of challenging work for mature audiences, but you can also usually find a family-friendly show or two to give kids their first taste of theatre, or at the very least give them something cool to do during the summer holidays. 2018 will bring a brand new kid-friendly work from Second Chance Theatre called Josephine! about a young girl whose life suddenly changes when her carer dies, and she’s forgotten by the world. “It deals with loss and grief and friendship, and how you bounce back from loss and trauma,” says Mathie.

Once again, Summer Nights extends its reach beyond The Blue Room’s two black box spaces into The Studio Underground and Rehearsal Room 1 of the State Theatre Centre, and also of course the pool at COMO The Treasury. They’ve also tried to give shows longer runs next year, thus giving artists the chance to generate word-of-mouth and to recoup some of their outlay in coming all the way out to Perth.

Bringing interstate and international artists to Summer Nights benefits Perth’s independent theatre makers and audience alike. Mathie says, “it’s a great way to broaden local artists’ understanding of what’s happening internationally and interstate in terms of independent theatre making.” And it keeps audiences in the loop with what’s happening around the theatre world, too.

Dive into the full Summer Nights 2018 program at The Blue Room website here.

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