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Theatre with Optimism: A Tiny Chorus

A humble-pie director with a silent story of naive souls who have a penchant for all things physical is preparing to uplift Sydney’s increasingly quirky theatre scene as part of this year’s Fringe Festival. Director Marcel Dorney sat down with Side Street Sydney to discuss A Tiny Chorus, the award winning creation of Eryn Jean Norvill and Emily Tomlins, and all the beauty, confusion, and infatuation that goes with it.

A Tiny Chorus is a small, two person show about the unlikeliest story of love and friendship that we could think of. It’s a story about Darren and Ralph and their quest to understand one another, which is complicated by the fact that Ralph can’t talk.” With the adoring males brought to life my Emily and Eryn Jean, two females who have both nominated for the Best Performer Award following the play’s success at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, the sense of complexity is somewhat understandable.

The play and its tight-knit creative team are overwhelmingly positive characters keen on the idea, certainly at least when on stage, of being in love with the world. “I think the piece comes out of a reaction to not only what we [the Melbourne-based production company Elbow Room] have been doing in previous years, but kind of what everyone else has as well. Well, not everyone else, but there has been this atmosphere of sarcasm and pessimism that pervades performance.” Clearly the time has come for the group to indulge in a piece that, simply put, springs from a place of love.

“It has been a really challenging piece for me to wrap my head around because it was being devised as it was being rehearsed … I am a writer as well as a director but I’m happy to say that I had no part in writing this, and the only reason I’m happy to say that is because I couldn’t have. It’s a wonderful piece that, as far as I’m concerned, is very much the product of Emily and Eryn Jean.”

Our conversation naturally swings over to playing God. In a work devised by two passionate and eccentrically experimental creatives, the director’s role is dramatically altered. It is no longer just about bravely assuming responsibility for an audience’s frequently uncontrollable experience but rather “a matter of readjusting expectations about being the all powerful ruler of the Universe.” Laughing at his own drolly sincere assessment, Marcel adds that this new form of held-back directing “is a different situation from what I have ever faced but I had a really great time and that great time included encountering some interesting frustrations.” His decision not to elaborate makes A Tiny Chorus deliciously mysterious.

Then we get to the space. Marcel explains that CarriageWorks embodies everything stunning, uplifting and downright splendid about Sydney’s desire to make once despised industrial creations iconic artistic hubs. “It’s huge, it’s beautiful, it’s an amazing thing.” Whilst he adopts the stance of the eternal optimist by cheerfully explaining that every performance space is indeed the perfect space, he is keen to discover how Darren and Ralph feel about their temporary Sydney home. “At the core of the show is the relationship between the couples and at times they are quite dwarfed by the world. In a large space you can actually get at that. It’s always interesting taking a show that’s already in existence to a new space and having it change the colours and textures of how the performers relate to one another … emotionally it is going to be really interesting. I’m really looking forward to it.”

This is A Tiny Chorus’s first Sydney-based theatrical adventure but it’s arriving with a quite a Fringe Festival reputation. It opens this Friday, September 10 and tickets are available here, or you can be lucky enough to win our double pass giveaway! Simply email with your details and why you love the Sydney theatre scene as much as we do and we’ll get back to you by tomorrow night.

words: Liz Schaffer


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