Rumpus aims to bring local artists and theatre-goers alike (Image Source: Nina Phillips)
By Nina Phillips
As budget cuts plague the South Australian arts sector, a community of creative individuals are striving to challenge Adelaide’s perception toward independent theatre through the launch of Rumpus: a brand-new, local theatre collective.
Last month, actor Rebecca Mayo was given the keys to a vibrant converted-warehouse in Bowden.
With the help of her co-facilitators, former resident director at the State Theatre Company Nescha Jelk, and associate director of ActNow Theatre Yasmin Gurreeboo, Rebecca aims to transform the space into an accessible venue for local artists to create, collaborate and perform in.
“[Rumpus] is an idea that has been dreamt up by a large community,” Rebecca said.
“We want it to be a home and hub for independent theatre in Adelaide.”
The initial concept for Rumpus began development in July last year during a meeting between Rebecca, her two prospective co-facilitators, and a number of other Adelaidean creators and performers.
Several concerns raised by the group, including the lack of opportunity to view, create and perform in independent theatre works in Adelaide, sparked a community-wide desire for a locally-focused theatre collective.
The dismantling of Arts South Australia in 2018, along with other funding cuts to the South Australian arts sector, prompted Rebecca, Nescha and Yasmin to take action.
“If Nescha, Yasmin and I were doing this on our own, I don’t think we would have gotten this far… especially in a year,” Rebecca said.
The group of approximately 30 independent artists continue to meet on a bi-monthly basis in order to offer support to the facilitators of Rumpus in any way possible.
While Adelaide is widely known for its annual Mad March festival season, Rebecca and the Rumpus team agree that, at times, the excessive hubbub surrounding the arts during this period does more harm than good.
Ticket sales reflect that arts events and, in particular, independent theatre shows, are not supported and enthusiastically attended year-round as they are during Adelaide’s festival season.
As a result, it is extremely difficult for independent artists to find spaces which accommodate them, and independent theatre is largely overlooked by audiences.
“Adelaide has the potential to be such a great art making town… yet, people don’t quite understand what independent theatre is,” Rebecca said.
According to Rebecca, as independent theatre productions operate on minimal funding, audiences tend to mislabel them as “amateur productions” and do not hold independent works in the same regard as main-stage performances.
This misunderstanding, coupled with the high tickets prices necessary to offset venue expenses and gain revenue during non-festival season, results in a general lack of interest in the South Australian independent theatre scene.
While many Adelaideans are eager to splurge on cheap tickets to wacky performances during Mad March, typically, only those with significant disposable incomes attend theatre shows during the other 11 months of the year.
For Adelaide-based pianist and composer Dan Thorpe Rumpus offers a chance to share his work with fellow South Australians for the first time in four years.
“I think Rumpus is something that [South Australian independent artists and audiences] have been waiting for, for a long time,” Dan said.
XXX Neon Sign, Dan’s genre-bending one-man-show, is the debut performance of Rumpus’ 2019 season and will premiere on September 12.
The themes of sexual identity and sexual interaction present in XXX Neon Sign offer insight into the critical topics Rumpus is aiming to tackle in their inaugural season.
“[Independent theatre creators] are often the only queer, political or feminist work in a season,” Dan said.
“In Rumpus, every single work, to some extent, is addressing issues that are in XXX or adjacent to the ones presented in XXX, and that’s amazing.”
Rebecca, Nescha and Yasmin sought help from a panel of five local artists – Jon Halpin, Edwin Kemp Attril, Eliza Lovell, Jamila Main and Alexis West – in the curation of Rumpus’ debut season.
In doing so, the team selected four shows and two developmental works which subvert the typical year-round South Australian theatre goer’s preconceived notions of art.
These works also enable Fringe-time theatre enthusiasts, who only have the opportunity to view productions during March, to experience independent theatre throughout the year.
“[The 2019 Rumpus season] is accessible as possible… no one person’s taste,” Rebecca said.
Tickets to a Rumpus performance will not exceed $30 and, over the next few months, Rebecca aims to host showings where audience members are simply encouraged to pay what they can.
“Art doesn’t exist without an audience,” she said.
Rebecca and her co-facilitators have enlisted the help of visual artist Meg Wilson to transform the inside of 100 Sixth Street Bowden into an exciting and inviting venue.
As the former home of Fontanelle studios and Sister Gallery, the team aims to preserve the history of the space while converting the space to accommodate a large foyer and bar area.
“We want people to stay and have a chat about what they’ve just seen,” Rebecca said.
“Reducing the distance between artist and audience is important for getting investment in independent work.”
With its scattered furniture and half-painted walls, the converted-warehouse appears rather eerie at the moment, but Rebecca is confident that Rumpus will be ready to open its doors to Adelaide’s theatre lovers in less than a month’s time.
“It’s just really exciting, we cannot wait,” she said.
For more information about Rumpus and their debut season, visit rumpustheatre.org.