The Guerrilla Museum presented their seminal work Funeral as part of Melbourne Festival in 2016. One year on, they are ready with their latest offering, All Of My Friends Were There. Where Funeral celebrated life through death, the celebration of life in this companion piece is so much more a party. Through dramatisations, song and performance, All Of My Friends Were There weaves a tapestry in motion, from the moment of birth through half-remembered childhood memories and beyond. John Sheedy, Artistic Director of Theatre Works, spoke with The Melbourne Critique about this immersive theatrics experience.
John, introduce us to All My Friends Were There.
Well, it’s not to long until we open, which is exciting. The adrenaline is pumping. All My Friends Were There is a new work from the Guerrilla Museum, the company that did Funeral last year at Melbourne Festival, which was a celebration of someone’s life through their death. It was a very intimate and very joyous piece. This is the companion piece where we celebrate someone’s life through their birthday. It’s an immersive piece where each night someone will be chosen to celebrate their birthday. We don’t know who it will be each night, but over each hilarious evening, we celebrate someone’s birthday.
Is there a deeper meaning behind the work?
Given the state the world is in and the way it has become a very mean place – I mean, at the moment we are taking a plebiscite on same sex marriage, which we shouldn’t have to do – the current state of politics and the world, this is about shedding all that for one evening . It’s about getting together, having a really good laugh and celebrating someone’s life. The aim is to celebrate and to forget the day to day, and the struggle we are all currently facing, even if it’s just for one night.
In the greater sense, what role does art play in creating positive framework for change?
I think it plays an incredibly important role. As Einstein says, “Only art and science will prevail at the end of the day.” I think we as story tellers putting ideas on stage – whether it’s educating, celebrating, picking apart an idea, or entertaining – it’s really important to escape to see a different perspective, a different side of life. to be challenged, to be engaged and inspired. Theatre is the certainly the place to do that, in its many forms. We need that, otherwise we are pretty lost without art. Whether you go to a gallery and see an exhibition, or go to the opera, it celebrates life and looks at life in all of its complexities. We need imagination.
Let’s talk about the element of surprise that is central to the work of The Guerrilla Museum.
It’s really important because the surprise element is to expect the unexpected. That’s so much of what Guerrilla Museum does, because not only do they put on a great theatre piece or experience, they also have all these surprise elements. But to them, what’s important is the secrecy surrounding it. They have some A-listers coming in every evening doing cameos. You never know who is going to walk through the door. That’s half the fun, and half the surprise.
In the greater scope of Melbourne Festival, how does this work respond to and fit within this year’s program?
It’s such a wonderful program and such an eclectic mix of different art forms. I think All My Friends Were There is right smack bang in the middle. It’s the party of the festival among all the other shows. It’s the manifesto to celebrate life. That’s where it sits beautifully in amongst all the other Melbourne Festival acts this year.