Comedian, actor, writer, male chauvinist impressionist, ex-wife of Rhys Nicholson (yes, it was a political statement) – Zoë Coombs Marr has quite a hefty portfolio. This eccentric Aussie performer has gone on to land her very own comedy special streaming around the world on Amazon Prime (Bossy Bottom), open for her mate Hannah Gadsby’s international tour, and host the ABC series Queerstralia. But she’ll never forget her roots.
Zoë cut her teeth devising theatre in the underbelly of Sydney’s arts scene and learning to “take being silly very seriously” with POST, the defiant little theatre company she founded with Natalie Rose and Mish Grigor. Now, they’re getting the band back together for Nighttime Righttime (Sat Oct 28 at 8pm, Sun Oct 29 and 6pm), a showcase of short, experimental cross-artform performances as part of Liveworks Festival of Experimental Art – which is a great big orgy of risky, wild art taking over Carriageworks right now. It’s presented by Performance Space, Australia’s leading organisation for the development and presentation of experimental and risky art.
Zoë caught up with Time Out Sydney ahead of this massive showcase, here’s what she had to say.
Alannah: You started out in Sydney’s contemporary performance scene, what was that like?
Zoë: “I think people don't really realise that Sydney has this history of really great, interesting performance art and contemporary performance. There was a real scene that doesn't exist so much in the same way anymore. When I first moved to Sydney, you could go from warehouse to warehouse and venue to venue, all around the CBD and the Inner West. There were lots of really fun, kind of anarchic, galleries and performance venues. And there was this real mix of live music and art and a whole bunch of stuff.
Don’t get me wrong, there are young, interesting people coming through now. But it's just that particular scene and the venues, it's not as supported or as visible I think as it once was. There used to be a lot more opportunities.”
Nighttime Righttime used to be a regular opportunity for contemporary performance in Sydney. What can you tell us about the event coming up at Liveworks?
“It's the stars of the Sydney contemporary performance scene. All the people who are performing are people who I've either came up with, or they were already making work, and they were the performers who I aspired to be, and be making work alongside off.
Nighttime used to be like a real fun party. I think people sometimes get a bit scared of contemporary performance or whatever. But like, I came from this world, this is where I honed my comedy skills, this is where I learned how to work an audience. I was doing this at the same time that I was doing stand up in pubs, and it's actually not that different.”
So, what is POST?
“POST is a performance group, a true ensemble that formed when we all met at PACT Youth Theatre in 2003. We have made all sorts of different works ranging from more performance-art gallery work, to theatre shows, we’ve worked with Belvoir, STC, Malthouse… [The definition of our work] always changes – it's like ‘hybrid art’ or ‘live art’ or ‘experimental theatre’.”
So it sounds like POST has been pretty pivotal to your career?
“Well, I was 18. And it was the first the first stuff that any of us ever really did. We kind of worked out how to make work, and how to produce stuff, how to navigate the industry, how to connect with an audience, and what kind of work we wanted to make. We'd kind of work that out together, yeah. And we still work together, just sort of less.”
Your performance with POST is a kind of retrospective of the troupe’s work, what else can you tell us about it?
“I mean, at the moment, it's mostly admin. The reality of making work in a collective, even when it is the main thing that you do, is that it's 90 per cent admin. So that might be what the performance is... There will probably be some dancing? We're kind of going through our back catalogue, it'll be ‘POST’s Greatest Hits’. It'll be funny and stupid.”
You lived in Sydney for a long time. Where else do you reckon people should go when they head to Carriageworks for Liveworks?
“There’s some great bars around there. The Bearded Tit is a great one. There’s also Arcadia, which is a little closer to that very windy intersection near Redfern Station, and there’s all those fun little places like the Sunshine Inn. Also, I love to go for a pre-show beer at the Royal, which is just a very standard pub on Abercrombie Street.”
Nighttime Righttime (Oct 28-29) is an umbrella program of short works co-curated by Rosie Dennis and Lara Thoms. Initiated during Performance Space’s transition from 199 Cleveland Street to Carriageworks, the program of experimental cross-artform works is returning with a mix of new short work commissions and a selection from the archive.
The performance begins in the Carriageworks Public Space and moves to Bay 20, the big 250-seat theatre. Ticket holders are encouraged to arrive 30 minutes prior to the performance. The show on Sunday, Oct 29, is Auslan Interpreted. Tickets are $45-$55 and you can book over here.