Perth-based performer Jessica Harlond-Kenny didn’t ever expect to become a puppeteer, but a formative experience at university changed her course dramatically.
“I studied at ECU – Contemporary Performance – and then I did a graduate program with Spare Parts Puppet Theatre for 18 months.” she tells us. “I did specialised training with them as a puppeteer and then I’ve been touring with them, performing in some of their shows. I graduated from uni 2009 and graduated from the First Hand Program in 2010 and I’ve been working with them on and off ever since.
“I wasn’t particularly drawn to it at first,” she continues. “I worked with Spare Parts at uni on an adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood, and while I loved doing that, I didn’t see myself as a puppeteer – that didn’t cross my mind. But I applied, I got into the graduate program and I think it’s one of the most magical artforms that exists now. I’m an absolute convert.”
This is evident in her upcoming show, The Hardest Way To Make An Omelette, which combines physical performance, traditional theatre and puppetry in a one-act, one-woman show. Harlond-Kenny plays a young woman whose inner contradictions and drives are made physically manifest at the breakfast table when, apropos of nothing, she suddenly starts to produce whole eggs from various parts of her body. It’s a comedy, she assures us, and not one of David Cronenberg’s weirder notions.
“The Hardest Way To Make an Omelette definitely is the hardest way to make an omelette and it’s the messiest way to make an omelette as well. It’s a lot of fun, it’s a great comic show, but it’s got quite a serious undertone as well, like a lot of comedies do, I suppose.
“It’s all about trying to find balance in your life,” she explains. “Everyone faces this problem as well, this conflict, that you want to be really on top of everything. You want to get your work done and have 2.5 kids and be really strict with yourself: ‘Why are you doing this? Don’t be so lazy! Get out of bed! Go for a run! Do something!’ So you’ve got that aspect of yourself, but on the other hand: ‘Fuck that! I want to travelling! Berlin’s great this time of year; let’s go!’ and going through things like that. So you have all these different drives that try and pull you in different directions in your life and you’re trying to find balance.”
Harlond-Kenny says that such issues were reflected in the rehearsal process. Although she worked extensively with a host of personnel, including director Leah Mercer, much time was spent alone. “That can be a real psychological battle. You don’t have someone to bounce ideas off of and it’s a little bit like our woman in the show, where these eggs start taking over her life. I’ve got these eggs that I’m trying to juggle and balance and sometimes it gets a bit much. You’re only working with yourself and you can be your own worse enemy, I think.”
The Hardest Way To Make An Omelette, by Cracked Egg Productions, runs at The Spare Parts Puppet Theatre as part of the Fremantle Festival from Thursday, October 21 until Sunday, November 10. Head here for more info.