Making its Melbourne debut this year, the Poppy Seed Festival is an exciting new addition to the Melbourne theatre scene. Featuring four shows across multiple venues, the festival encourages a real sense of connection and camaraderie between all artists involved. Beat sat down with Jean Goodwin from Man With A Plan to discuss the festival, the theatre scene in Melbourne and her upcoming show Gin Sister.
Chekhov’s three sisters are drunk. Alice, Emma and Jean are drunk. Through an eclectic mix tape of song, dance, verbatim, poetic self-reflections and classical text, the show takes the audience on an intoxicating journey through the female experience of our favourite poison. Under the direction of Elizabeth Millington, the three performers – Emma Hall, Jean Goodwin and Alice Cavanagh – will lead the audience from reality to transcendence to self realisation in an epic tale of the quintessential ‘good night out’, while providing the audience with an honest and informed theatrical representation of the female experience of alcohol.
According to Goodwin, the story uses Anton Chekhov’s Three Sisters as it’s stimulus. “It’s basically an exploration into that human desire for intoxication. It’s a real investigation as to why we as human beings reach for alcohol and it’s an exploration of what that desire is and the dangerous line we walk but it’s also a non-judgemental viewpoint as well.” For Goodwin, an important aspect of the show is making people aware of why we drink. “I think it’s very important because as a drinker myself, as much as I love it, I think it’s important that we’re conscious of how and why we’re doing it. I think it becomes dangerous when you forget that and start to pursue it just for the feeling rather than all the other things that it brings like human connection. I think it’s really important that while enjoying this substance, you’re also conscious of how much you’re having and the impacts on your life and that it’s a conscious choice to do it rather than something that then dips over into addiction.”
Using Nietzsche and the idea of Apollo and Dionysus as a stimulus, Goodwin was keen to explore the ideas of alcohol and intoxication, particularly from a female perspective, as she believes that alcohol is something that is completely ingrained in our culture as human beings. “As artists, alcohol is a bit of an elephant in the room – no one really talks about how alcohol or how substance abuse is ingrained in art.”
Stepping into a career as an actor is never easy but Goodwin’s passion for this path shines through. Originally joining a local theatre group as a child to battle with intense shyness, Goodwin eventually found a path that would allow her to communicate with those around her in a more confident manner. “The thing that I love about it and the thing that makes me, as an adult, happy that I’ve chosen this path is the opportunity to hold a mirror up to the world around you and show people what they haven’t seen. It’s that idea of being able to communicate with people in a very human way that they can’t get when they go to the movies. Theatre for me is important because you get that one-on-one feedback and it makes me proud and excited to do it as a career because it’s the opportunity to show people a part of their society that they might not have seen before or they might not have connected with.”
In a town that’s filled with festivals, one must wonder what will make Poppy Seed stand out. For Goodwin, the special factor is that it’s about artists supporting other artists. “I guess you could say that about a few festivals but this one is unique in that it’s smaller and also collaborative. It’s exciting for me as an actor because you kind of get this idea of networking with other artists but to have a festival where you’re not competing with each other and where you’re all supporting each other and you’re all driving towards a successful audience for all your shows makes it really unique.”
In a city packed with so much theatre, Goodwin believes that the Melbourne independent scene is dynamic, challenging and very important. “What I find exciting about it’s that there’s not really any limitations. We’re not just trying to make good theatre, we’re trying to make an impact. You’ve got these shows that are almost competing with each other to make the biggest statement or to make a show that means something and that’s exciting. The drive to make the biggest statement is exciting to me because that means hope. It pushes me as an artist and it means our independent theatre scene hopefully becomes important because it doesn’t have the restrictions that a main stage show has, meaning we can say much more and do much more without a board of people saying ‘I don’t know if that’s appropriate’.”