INTERVIEW: The Farm Co-Directors Gavin Webber & Grayson Millwood

With Frank Enstein opening tomorrow on the Gold Coast, and headlining Bleach* Festival, we chat with Gold Coast-based Co-Directors of The Farm, Gavin Webber and Grayson Millwood. Read on to learn more about their choreographic style, why they decided to create Frank Enstein, and what it’s like to collaborate with the Co3 dancers.

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What prompted you to create this work?

Frank Enstein started, as so many of these things do, with a long conversation about shared fascinations. In this case it stemmed from under-utilised ideas from previous works in Europe, but didn’t become “this” work until Daniel Monks joined us. With Daniel’s unique take on the role of Frank, the work moved from ‘shared fascinations’ to an urgently unfolding work that needed to be made.


How does the production bring something new to the storyline?

In the original story, the monster feels shunned by society, unworthy of love or even companionship. In our version we ask, what if this is how the doctor feels, animating his monsters in an attempt to create love and find acceptance?

Having the role of a brilliant but lonely Dr. Enstein played by a performer with a disability does give a unique take on the work but our interest lies in the universal experience of feeling unworthy.

The themes in Frankenstein are so rich that they easily encompass our totally different take on the story, but as far as the plot line goes, we kind of left that behind in week one.


How would you describe your choreographic style?

We’d like to think that it is always specific to the show we are working on, but of course there are interests that span all of our work, such as humour, danger and humanity. Choreography is always created in response to the themes of a work rather than aesthetics and we have a strong sense of dramaturgy at all times. We also equally value art that is both high and low.


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What’s it like working with Co3 dancers? 

Co3 dancers rock! We have worked with them before, and we keep coming back for more. Specifically for Frank Enstein, Talitha, Zachary and Andrew make the perfect monsters because they are inhumanly good at what they do. It was an early decision that the monsters would be hyper-able bodied so it’s lucky we’re working with Co3 because it’s hard to match their level of physicality.


What kinds of themes are explored in this work?

Self acceptance is the biggie. It is central to every motivation for the characters. When we started we thought about what we would like to say to our children when they get a bit older and we wanted to let them know they were okay being themselves, they didn’t need to match everybody else to be loveable. There are other things we are dealing with such as isolation and what is real and authentic versus artificial, but in the end we will always veer back to the need for self acceptance.


See the Co3 dancers in Frank Enstein, at the Arts Centre Gold Coast 31 March – 1 April, and at the State Theatre Centre WA in the Studio Underground from 5 April – 8 April, 7.30pm.



Images by Michael Maclean.


INTERVIEW: Zachary Lopez in Frank Enstein

Co3 dancer Zachary Lopez is on the Gold Coast rehearsing Frank Enstein with The Farm and dancers Andrew Searle and Talitha Maslin. In just FRANK_Portraits_007_ZachLopezunder a week Frank Enstein will have its world premiere at Bleach* Festival before coming to Perth on April 5 – 8 at the Studio Underground. Read on to see why Zachary thinks Frank Enstein is unlike any other contemporary dance he has performed in.


What is your role in Frank Enstein?

I am created through Frank’s forgotten and unused excess parts that are thrown into the bin and left outside. When the storm rumbles and lighting strikes, I begin to form and assemble into an uncertain, mismatched and bipolar being. I am Liz’s companion and her imaginary friend, she tries to get me fixed but hasn’t yet realised she firstly needs to repair relationships with Frank and herself. I go on an emotional and physical rollercoaster, never understanding my capabilities and the reasons why I entered this world. I question my strengths and weaknesses and whether they matter in a place where you just need to ‘be’.


How do you get into the mindset of your character before a show?

It’s a process throughout the creative development and the performance season to be able to portray a character that gets to a place where it makes sense for you as a performer. It’s a continual journey and doesn’t ever get easy, it becomes second nature. I get to explore other ways of portraying a character and with this continual exploration I begin to see clearer and I’m able to thread ideas more cohesively.


Are there any challenges with the repertoire? 

The challenging part of the work is working with props, specifically vacuums. As many times you practice with a prop there still could be chance it could go a way you didn’t intend. Other than that challenge, the physical dance movement in the piece comes in bursts, so a lot of high intensity movement followed by small rests. The repertoire itself for me is physically demanding, but theres avenues for exploring new ideas within the body and where it can go and that’s what interests me as a mover.


Do you have any pre-performance rituals?

I don’t yet have a specific ritual but it’s always important to keep the body and mind active. If the work requires a lot of partnering, I spend time with the other dancers getting to know their movements and energy so it’s not a shock when you connect for the first time that night on stage.


What is it like working with The Farm?

It’s a whole new experience, a bit of a dream. Every creative process is different with every company and choreographer. Developing this particular work with The Farm it has opened up a whole new skill set for me as a collaborator. I am continually challenged as an artist to be versatile in other forms of movement and ways of approaching tasks. We are nurtured into finding our own journey within the piece and given space to find and explore our own movement vocabulary. It’s an awesome environment to work in and theres always something new to learn and experience each day.


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How did your experience differ from typical dance works to this one? 

This piece is definitely not a typical contemporary dance work in comparison to others I’ve worked on. This work is open to all people and invites the weird, the whacky and the beautiful. It’s not fixated on the beauty of the movement but the intentions of each character and their body language. It was great to learn from Daniel who plays Frank and how he captures the ideas through his voice and expression.


Have you ever performed at the Studio Underground?

It’s always exciting performing in such amazing venues and the State Theatre Centre is one of them. I have had the pleasure of performing at the State Theatre but the Studio Underground will be something new to me to perform in, so I’m looking forward to it.


What can audiences expect from this retelling of Frankenstein?

You will just have to wait and see! The story unravels in such a magical way you may find yourself lost in this world, relating to a character or all of them.


See Zachary in Frank Enstein, on at the State Theatre Centre WA at the Studio Underground from 5 April – 8 April, 7.30pm.


Images by Claudio Kirac and Michael Maclean.


INTERVIEW: Talitha Maslin in Frank Enstein

Our dancers, Andrew Searle, Talitha Maslin and Zachary Lopez, are currently on the Gold Coast in rehearsals with The Farm for Frank Enstein. This collaboration sees Co3 performing at Bleach* Festival on 31 March – 1 April, before coming back to the West to perform at the State Theatre Centre at the Studio Underground from 5 – 8 April.

We chatted to Talitha about the show, her character and what it’s like working with maverick directors, Gavin Webber and Grayson Millwood, over at The Farm.


Tell us a bit about your role in the show.THEFARM_Frank_HiRes_FINAL1

I play Frank’s creation. I am inspired by the character Liz, who Frank falls in love with at first sight but never thinks he could talk to her or that she would want to be with him due to his physical appearance. My character is a little scary as she is unable to control her body and falls madly, obsessively in love with Frank when she wakes up.


How do you get into the mindset of your character before a show?

I lay on the slab for quite a while during the show before I come to life so it is easy for me to inhabit the character coming to life. The beauty in playing a creation is that the emotional journey isn’t linear, it has the ability to explore and change ideas and emotions rapidly. I think we have all been cast in roles that allow us to bring our own interpretation to the character so it gives the opportunity to inhabit them and transform in to them.


Do you find the choreography challenging?

Yes, there is an extreme physicality that I explore during my creation which is very challenging, but I think that is what makes it beautiful. Also shifting in and out of conscious states and what that means during different sections of the work is interesting as it really changes the way the physicality is presented. I also do a lot of lifting which presents it’s own challenge in strength but also communication between performers. The best part is, I get to live out a commercial dance fantasy – I never thought there would be a place for such over-the-top Jazzy movement in a contemporary work but the amazing thing about dance or physical theatre, especially in a show that caters for young audiences, is that anything is possible.


What is it like working with The Farm?

Very rewarding. Not only do I get to contribute with what I am doing physically and with my character, but I also have input in the work, in the structure, the dramaturgy and we discuss everybody’s ideas and offerings so I feel like I am always learning.

There are also times where I get left to my own devices so it is great way to learn how to work efficiently and effectively so when we come back together we have solid ideas to present and dissect.


How did your experience differ from typical dance works, to this one which has an actor?

This question is interesting for me as I have been in works previously that have involved text and more formal ‘acting’ skills, so I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily new or different for me. In saying that, having an actor’s perspective in the creative process is the most interesting part. Daniel sees the work in a different way, he talks about his character in a different way and I feel I get to learn about a new form of communication in the creative process.

It is also fascinating as he has a physical disability and getting to see him deal with that. We as the dancers need to adapt very rapidly during partnering and when forming our physical relationships to him, I think that is what sets Frank Enstein apart from other works for me, regardless of the fact that he is an actor.


What can audiences expect from this retelling of Frankenstein?

I think they can expect to see a multi-layered love story. A story equipped with just the right amount of humour, horror and sadness. An interpretation of Mary Shelley’s beautiful story that brings us back to ourselves and allows us to question what makes us human, our desires and need for companionship.


See Talitha in Frank Enstein, on at the State Theatre Centre WA at the Studio Underground from 5 April – 8 April, 7.30pm.



Images by Claudio Kirac.