The Talk

The Talk 2016 Mish Grigor hero shot mish lay down photographer credit Jess Olivieri image courtesy Performance Space for Liveworks 2016
Photograph: Jess Olivieri Mish Grigor – 'The Talk' (2016)

Mish Grigor wants to have an awkward conversation with you – about her sex life

Most people have “the talk” with their parents when they are teenagers (if at all). For Mish Grigor, her family first had a frank talk about sex when she was an adult, after a family member was diagnosed with a sex-related illness.

“Suddenly this person’s sex life was part of the public conversation of the family,” Grigor recalls. “It was strange to be talking about their body and health and sex life. I felt like we should all be part of the conversation, sharing – not just the person for whom it was a pressing issue. And I wondered if it would make [the family] closer if we opened up like that.”

In her one-woman show The Talk, Grigor talks about having those talks, and invites audience members to help perform conversations between her and various family members. “I ask people to play my mum or my brother or my dad – they read from a script. They don’t have to act.”

The first time she performed the show (in 2015) it was in a loungeroom in the Melbourne suburb of Brunswick. The result was extra intimate and personal. “We were all sitting in a loungeroom together talking about a family who were sitting in a loungeroom,” she recalls.

She subsequently decided to transpose the show to a proper ‘theatre’, first at Glasgow’s Buzzcut festival and then at Edinburgh Fringe.

“Now it feels more like somewhere between a theatre show and a weird self-help group. It feels more performed; the audience is more aware that I’m a performer, and I’m not just chatting.”

This creates a sweet spot for Mish: an ambiguity around how “true” the show is. In her solo practice and as part of the Sydney-based performance collective Post (Oedipus Schmoedipus), she has been making work that is more or less autobiographical for more than a decade. It has made her suspicious of the concept. 

“When I started interviewing my family for [The Talk], I became really aware that I was manipulating ‘reality’ in some way – even in the sense of asking certain questions, or extrapolating certain points,” she recalls. “And I felt like I had to make that manipulation part of the work – kind of ‘out’ myself.”

“It was really interesting doing it [overseas], because no-one knew me or my background, or my practice. So they had no context to place the work in. People were like ‘Is any of this true? Did you completely fabricate this?’” 

Make up your own mind this week when the work has its Sydney premiere as part of the Liveworks Festival at Carriageworks – alongside other genre-bending works.

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