Sarah Giles discusses SS METAPHOR

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All aboard! SS Metaphor sets sail in a week!

The Malthouse Theater is once again pushing the boundaries of theater with its new cabaret comedy, written by and starring brilliantly funny Ash Flanders. SS metaphor will be performed on the Malthouse Outdoor stage, creating a unique visual experience. Ash is joined by Zenya Carmellotti, Will Conyers (who also provided musical direction) and Natalie Gamsu for a night like no other.

Sarah Giles | Photo by Pia Johnson

Sarah Giles is the show’s director and playwright, and is absolutely thrilled to be working on a new play after the past few years. Sarah is an award-winning opera and theater director, having directed productions for STC, MTC, State Theater of South Australia, Malthouse Theater, Griffin Theater, and more. Past credits include Lorelei, Mrs Warren’s profession, folk mechanics, the accidental death of an anarchist and The ugly.

How did you find your return to a rehearsal room after the last few years?

Sarah: Oh my god that’s so sweet [laughs]. I actually did one show in the middle of the year… I actually did a few shows this year, which is weird because they all happened between all the blocks. But it’s so nice to be back in the room with other people, doing stuff.

I think after the last few years we as spectators and directors have really learned the value of importance live performance is.

Sarah: I sincerely believe that the theater is the closest thing to life, because when you do a show or when you rehearse the show, you can only be there. When you watch a show, it happens in front of you. You are present as a member of the public. And like life, it happens in front of you and then it fades and it’s gone. I find this nostalgia really appealing – so it’s gone forever, and it’s never going to happen again. It’s a great way to spend your life going to the theater or participating in its creation. It was a real point of frustration, I think, for a lot of artists during COVID – this notion of ‘let’s try to do it on Zoom, let’s try to do the repeat of Zoom’. And so my colleagues said, “You just can’t. You have to stop because you can’t do theater if you can’t get together collectively. So we’re just thankful that we can do it again.

Is it exciting to be working on a brand new play?

Sarah: Yeah, it’s fun. My lockdown was a special mark – we have two young children, the husband works full time, so the lockdown was a very special beast. So to be able to do something New… Everyone in the room is feeling pretty daring. Everyone likes to bring a lot into the room I think because everyone has been trapped inside and had nowhere to really put the craziness of their ideas. And it’s also a pretty short rehearsal period, we really only had about two weeks so we’re also working really fast which is fun because it means there isn’t a lot of time to sit. We love it, it’s quite satisfying to work like that.

Ash Flanders and Zenya Carmellotti in rehearsals for SS metaphor

Can you tell me a bit about the show?

Sarah: The principle is that you [the viewer] sit on a cruise ship, and you watch the show that this cruise ship puts on every night, the cabaret show. From there, it unraveled a bit. And this space is set up for a cabaret, not for a traditional theater performance. The show therefore walks on this strange border between a theater performance with narration and a sort of cabaret show. I haven’t seen anything like it, to be honest

Did you and the cast get to play around with the script a bit during the rehearsal period?

Sarah: I think the notion of a writer sitting in a locked room, writing a script and then delivering it and people just playing it… I just don’t believe that there is. I think every show has some level of collaboration, and that’s dictated by how collaborative that particular writer wants to be. Ash is actually incredibly collaborative. He’s very open, so it’s been an extremely collaborative process. We had a few developments where we had actors who came to read and give their opinion. There was a lot of tinkering, and then someone is going to come up with another idea and another offer. It has not radically departed from its original concept. It’s kind of not like a naturalistic play where you speak on stage, have a conversation, and that’s just what they say. The shape of the room has something to say.

The outdoor stage of the malt house was previously only used for concerts, cabarets and comedy shows. How did you find the use of this space for a narrative play?

Sarah: There are things you can do outdoors that you just cannot do in a theater. You know, there are certain shows, certain ideas and works that present themselves very well. The malt house is incredible, rotates and seeks to reinvent the definitions of what theater is in terms of space. How do you get involved? What kind of audience is it? I haven’t worked in an outdoor theater so it’s good to do something you’ve never done before. I think if you’ve never been to a theater show before, it’s probably a good show.


SS metaphor opens at the Malthouse Theater on December 9.

For tickets and more information, visit the site of the malt house.

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