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SPOTLIGHT: Brisbane Festival’s The Farm discuss Stunt Double

Created by Gold Coast dance and theatre collective The Farm, Stunt Double is a high-octane and thrilling genre-bending production set on a 1970s Aussie action flick where stunt doubles accomplish death-defying feats, but the real danger begins when the cameras stop rolling. 

Premiering on Wednesday 6 September and running until Saturday 9 September at Brisbane Powerhouse for Brisbane Festival, Stunt Double is proudly supported by Screen Queensland’s Screen Culture fund. 

Use our exclusive promo code (BFXSCREENQLD) to enjoy an industry discount for this production. Buy tickets here.

Gavin Webber from The Farm chatted with us about the development of this new project ahead of its world premiere at Brisbane Festival. 

What is it about screen stories in front and behind the lens that inspire you, and inspired this work, Stunt Double? 

We’ve often used film as a touchstone for what inspires us when we enter a creative process, and our work has often been described as cinematic. I think that’s because film can have a close and visceral feel to it, a physicality that intersects with the kind of storytelling we are interested in. 

Stunt Double pushes even further by incorporating the process of filmmaking into the work. You actively watch take after bruising take of live action sequences. We were interested in using this device as a way to explore hierarchy, power and privilege. We became fascinated by the idea of stunt doubles and how they work so hard only to be edited from view. The idea of ownership over the body became equally interesting, the way the stunt double’s body represents the character and therefore is partly owned by the actor. We spent a lot of time talking to two stunt action performers, who shared very personal stories of their time on set. We never intended to criticise the film industry in any way, but we wanted to use the pressure and inevitable hierarchy as a metaphor for our larger society. And we put ourselves square in the middle of it. The ego of the actors is only an indication of our own. And everyone is attracted to the lens, everyone wants to be seen and to control the narrative. 

The Farm is known for exceeding the limits (both conceptually and physically) of theatre. How does Stunt Double step into the unexpected and push the boundaries? 

We’ve got a script! That’s a first. Our work is usually 100% devised on the floor but the size and scale of the production necessitated a different approach. Each development we were working on a different section, then stitching everything together at the end. Our ambitions were vast, but we remained true to the central question of how one person’s talent gets used for another person’s fame. 

With Stunt Double we have used a narrative structure and characterisation to tell our story, but we always knew we wanted to return to our strengths of surreal physical and visceral story telling. We did a dance between forms with a lot of support from our dramaturgs, designers and collaborators, enabling us to create such a genre bending piece of derived theatre.  

Tell us a bit about the setting for the show—a 1970s Aussie action flick. 

The 70s were a time of change, when it seemed like everything was shifting for the better, but here we are, 50 years on, and we’re not entirely convinced it has. We’re again in a moment where it seems like older values are being challenged and walls are starting to crack. In Stunt Double the system is represented by the filming process and use of stunt doubles. There’s a necessary hierarchy in that system that creates a basic inequity. We became fascinated by the parallels we could draw between that world and our own.  

Also, secretly, our love of B-grade cinema motivated us to choose this path. The tropes and cliches are our way in, we use humour and stunts to create a celebration where the audience is tricked into overlooking what is taking place under the surface. There are two shows really, the one that sits on top and is full of gags and stunts and egos, and the one that sits underneath, bubbling quietly away until the lid comes off and the whole thing boils over.  

The usual practice of The Farm is to create collectively, and your works tend to evolve and take form holistically. What was that experience like for the creation of Stunt Double? 

Very much so. Even if it’s difficult we hold fast to our collaborative way of working. Sometimes people take the lead, and the others fall into support of that role. It’s a central tenet of our company and the reason we have created Stunt Double in the first place.  

The arrival of a script was like a proposal to the group.  Everything is a collaboration, whether you are aware of it or not. Every thought we have, that seems like our own, arises from a thousand conversations. We want to claim credit, but in the end, we keep in mind that we are only here to support the delivery of the work. The work is the boss. When it speaks, we all shut up and listen. 

What can audiences expect to take away from the show? 

There’s no doubt this show is a fun ride. It’s pretty wild and will constantly defy expectations. Half the time we are establishing things so we can break them down and surprise people. It’s very physical and exciting but, like I said, it’s the underbelly I think people will go home with. That’s what will stay with them, the images, the emotions, the dreamlike core of this work that goes beyond the simplicity of its premise and permeates our lives.  

Stunt Double is presented by Brisbane Festival and supported through Screen Queensland’s Screen Culture Fund.  

Image courtesy of The Farm and Brisbane Festival
Image courtesy of The Farm and Brisbane Festival
Image courtesy of The Farm and Brisbane Festival