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Flying the flag for BATS

Uther Dean
Uther Dean
Renee Liang spoke to writer, director and designer Uther Dean about how the new BATS will influence practitioners.

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The Fly BATS Home campaign has already raised over $25,000 towards a new kit-out for the expanded space of Wellington's iconic BATS theatre. With the line 'reaching for awesome", BATS is seeking to raise as much as possible, with every dollar going to further enhance the theatre for the generations of theatremakers to come.

The Fly BATS Home campaign has already raised over $25,000 towards a new kit-out for the expanded space of Wellington's iconic BATS theatre. With the line 'reaching for awesome", BATS is seeking to raise as much as possible, with every dollar going to further enhance the theatre for the generations of theatremakers to come.

Renee Liang spoke to writer, actor, director and designer Uther Dean about how the new BATS will influence practitioners.

* * *

How many shows have you done at BATS?

I stopped counting long ago. My Accomplice (the company I run with my friends Hannah and Paul) has been running for five years now and we've opened the majority of the fourteen shows (so far) at BATS, it's become our default homebase. And I've done heaps of freelance work beyond that as a tech, actor and director there. My first show, as with many people, was a Young and Hungry show in 2006. I think I had the smallest part in the entire history of the festival and it feels like it kinda hasn't stopped since then.

What difference has having access to a facility like BATS made to your career?

It's not so much that BATS has made a difference to my career: I simply wouldn't have a career without BATS. That I had access, so early in my career, to a supportive, accessible venue like BATS has allowed me to test my methods of working in front of audiences in a way that very few people in the world are able to. I earned my stripes at BATS, it's more than a theatre to me. It's basically my home.

What do you love the most about BATS?

In July last year I had an idea to do a live radio drama podcast in the mode of The Twilight Zone. So I emailed Cherie at BATS. By the end of that week it wasn't just an idea anymore it had dates at BATS. Within three months, we'd recorded them at BATS and they were on the internet. There is absolutely nowhere else I can think of where such a silly idea can come so quickly into being. That is what I love about BATS. It's where things can just happen. They don't have to be tested ideas, they don't even have to be good ideas. They just have to be ideas.

What do you know about the refurbishment, and what do you find the most exciting prospect?

I know quite a bit since I'm writing and directing (with Meg Rollandi) the Stab show that's opening it. It's all terribly exciting, of course. More performing spaces (there'll be three!) is the most exciting prospect. Smaller, more intimate work and work not best suited to black box, end stage presentation will finally have places to be at BATS so we'll see more of that. Exciting!

Why should people donate to the fundraising campaign?

Because it's not hyperbole to say that a large chunk (maybe even a majority) of successful performing artists in this country got their start or, at the very least, presented work at BATS. It is the bed rock of the performing arts industry in this country. Donating now is not just an investment in the shows people will make there next year, it's an investment in the future of theatre in this country.

Tell me about the STAB commission you are working on, which is likely to be one of the first plays in the new space.

It's called Watch. I'm writing it on my own and directing it with Meg Rollandi who's designing it. The amazing Goldthrope Creative are producing it for us. It's a techno thriller (man, that genre does not sound cool written down, but it really is promise) about surveillance in the modern world. We follow an activist couple and the government agents spying on them. It's pretty twisty and turny  so I don't really want to say much more than that. But it's going to be cool and pretty and hardcore but also, at the end of the day, a small weird crinkly kind of story about people and how we relate to each other. Oh, it also has a bunch of really good jokes in it. But of course I'd say that. I wrote them.

BATS is famed for encouraging practitioners to 'learn on the job' and be self-sufficient. Will having a sleek shiny new facility change the no. 8 wire approach?

I think there are some things about the construction of the new building that will not allow it to be as flexible when it comes to oh we'll just bolt it into the wall kind of thinking. But that's only one form of the no. 8 wire approach (hoary a cliche as it is) , if the people in charge are doing their jobs (and I have no doubt that they will be) they will ensure that the more important side of that thinking – the working on your feet, the intellectual flexibility, the constant making and remaking, feedback and reflection, and making sure everything will be alright on the night – will hang around easily.

Written by

Renee Liang

31 Jul 2014

Renee is a writer who is exploring many ways of telling stories, including plays, short stories, poetry (which she also performs), and cross-genre collaborations with composers, musicians, sculptors and filmmakers.

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