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TRAGEDY! (A NEW COMEDY) Greek Myth-Inspired Cabaret at Fringe

If the gods of Greek mythology really did exist today, what would they think about a world saturated with pop culture, selfies, narcissism and expensive smashed avo on toast? Elizabeth Scales explores this concept with her unique and refreshing new cabaret, Tragedy! (a new comedy). In its debut at FRINGE WORLD for three shows Friday to Sunday, January 25-27 at Lady Beaufort Street Community Centre, the scene is set when one Greek god is sent down to earth to address the mortals at a meeting, in a bid to reclaim power over their fates. The solo cabaret is a tongue-in-cheek jibe at a self-absorbed modern society through a mash-up of Greek tragic texts with pop culture references and original modern chorus songs. CHERYL LIM sat down with Elizabeth Scales to discuss her passion for creating a modern-day, Greek myth-inspired cabaret.

I’m guessing that you grew up reading Greek mythology? When did you first discover your appreciation for it and which Greek god was your favourite?

Well, I’d definitely been aware of it growing up and quite interested! I love the stories, the history, the theatre and how it makes sense of civilisation/ the ways of the world (and consequence!). Funnily enough it comes from a few curve ball influences: Acropolis Now and Con the Fruiterer started my interest in Greek culture via comedy. Growing up in Brisbane there was / is quite the presence of Greeks here and I think I’ve always had a fondness of both Greek and Italian families with their hard-working ethic and big brick houses with Greek (or Roman) inspired concrete columns out the front.

I trained in Creating Theatre and Performance at the London International School of Performing Arts (LISPA), which is founded on Lecoq (physicality and movement) technique. I discovered the territory of Greek tragedy, melodrama, the tragic hero and the tragic chorus whilst training there and I fell in love with this territory… Along with my deep love of comedy, sketch and character work.

My favourite god? I have a few but I “counsel the modern day mortals” as Artemis – goddess of light, hunting, wild animals and the wilderness, protector of the vulnerable – the nature nurturer.

How did you get into cabaret and how did the idea for Tragedy! (a new comedy) come about?

Cabaret came about for me as a way of creating solo work that I can perform between working with ensembles, in companies and in film and television. It’s a means for me to perform consistently and audiences (particularly Australian!) love cabaret so, win-win…  I also love singing and telling a story with the flavour of theatre and a strong character. Cabaret fulfills all of these needs in one. Tragedy! (a new comedy) came about quite simply because I loved Greek Chorus whilst training and the power of a collective voice, which grew to the idea of creating a one-woman Greek Tragic chorus.

Some may say that everyone worships something or someone. In today’s world of smart phone obsession, selfies, Netflix binging and self-absorption, who or what would you say are the ‘gods’ that people worship today? 

I think that often people deny faith. Any faith, I mean. I’m not talking about choosing a denomination and going with doctrine, I’m talking more generally. The throw around word now is “atheist” and I think that’s because it’s cool to only believe in yourself and nothing else and I mean this as “I only depend on me” no one can help me but me… Trust no one but yourself… There’s a loss of community and the advent of individualism in these statements, which alienate us all… but, as Sam Smith sings in his song Pray: “You won’t find me in church (no) reading the Bible (no), I am still here and I’m still your disciple.”

My point is, we all believe in something and I think pop culture and social media have really taken the space in people taking a different view on it all and possibly a more narcissistic view: “I am my own god, I choose my fate and destiny”.

If Artemis really did exist today and she wanted to save the world from their boredom and narcissism, what mission would she embark on today? 

Pleading humility from the mortals and care for the earth and all of its creatures including fellow (hu)man. I think we’ve lost humility in today’s affluent society. I think she would approach the mortals on a human level and, rather than trying to rule them or make them fear her, I think she would want to work WITH them. I think she would want humanity to work together with compassion and kindness. I think she would strive to enlighten a larger purpose, which I think is why faith / believing in something (no matter what it is) is so necessary. If we only believe in ourselves, where do we go from there? I don’t mean self-confidence (we NEED to believe in ourselves in that manner), I mean about seeing beyond ourselves and to something bigger than our vacuous lives.

How would you help Artemis restore balance to the world if she enlisted you to help her?

Oh! I’d live by example… and tour my show around the world as her ambassador as the messenger of the gods!

What can audience members expect or take away from Tragedy! (a new comedy)?

Tragedy! (a new comedy) is a very fun cabaret with a lot of research and accuracy underlying the dramaturgy with a clear tongue-in-cheek twist and a lot of dry, sometimes silly and satirical comedy. I expect the audience to leave feeling entertained and having had a laugh at the goddess (and her struggle to come with terms of the modern world no longer believing in her), having enjoyed a witty re-lyricised pop song or two as well as an original and some original Greek tragic texts to boot!… I expect them to feel joy upon leaving!… Maybe a week later, the audience might see a few correlations in modern day life and contemplate it’s trivial nature or giggle once more about the goddess having commented on that certain thing. I think Tragedy! (a new comedy) gives the audience a chance to have a laugh and a look at themselves and their lives without preaching a specific lesson or outcome. I think it’s an entertaining show to see that leaves little bubbles of enlightenment / self-awareness to burst later but… only if they want them to!


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