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Answering life’s biggest mysteries: Jonathon Oxlade chats all things Creation Creation

What happens when two designers are given the task to answer and unravel the mysteries of the universe?

Playing in Perth’s AWESOME Festival, Creation Creation takes some of life’s greatest questions and challenges two designer performers to use the tools at their disposal to answer them.

Posed by members of the community, aged between 8 to 102, these questions explore all facets of life such as “What happens when you die?”, “What happens inside blackholes?”, “Are aliens real?” and much more!

As a designers, Jonathon Oxlade and Fleur Elise Noble are no strangers to having their work seen on stage. However, within Creation Creation they get to step into a new realm by building their designs on stage to respond to the series of questions and stories presented to them.

Jonathon describes their roles as being ‘Creators’ who use the set as their toolbox, “The concept comes from the idea that humans are inherently creative and it’s what unites us but it’s also what makes us wonderfully different. Fleur and I are two creators and in a way the set is kind of like our playground or our studio. We use it to illustrate and create visuals that either link directly to some of the storytelling in the text or sit against it to make juxtapositions to create new images.”

Being within this dual role is a different experience for Jonathon, “As a designer I’m usually the person that has an idea about how I’d like something to work and look and then I hand it over to a performer or director. But here there’s more of a direct link, you’ve only got yourself to come up with the rest of the performance.”

Creation Creation. Photography by Thomas McCammon

Creation Creation falls under the category of documentary theatre with the voices of its many respondents inspiring the Creators’ directions, “It’s linked to sound-based theatre. We’re not creating fiction or a tale, we’re not creating something that’s non-figurative. It’s based on ideas and facts.” says Johnathon.  

Co-creator Rolsyn Oades conducted 50 interviews with members of the South Australian public over a 6-month period before creating an audio-script of their responses. With interviewees ranging in ages there’s a strong mix of intergenerational perspectives and stories, that have now been preserved.

Johnathon tells me about the show’s oldest respondent, Ronald who was 102 and sadly passed away before Creation Creation’s Adelaide season. “He [Ronald] tells a story from when he was young that’s answering what the meaning of life is about. His whole family came to the show and they loved it. But funnily enough, there’s a puppet that Fleur made of him, and we hadn’t seen his face, that looked a lot like him apparently.”

The show’s varied outlooks from its interviewees creates strong audience engagement. Jonathon says this is particularly evident in the post-show Q&As, “After shows with school groups and with young people, we will have a Q&A for about 10 minutes and by far these are the most interesting and philosophical conversations I’ve ever had after a show.”

“They’re [the audience] asking more questions and they’re building upon questions with their experiences. It’s an access point for people to have conversations about what everything is and what it means, and we don’t do that often. Young people are fertile with imagination and ideas.”

Creation Creation. Photography by Thomas McCammon

The Creation Creation team has also developed a way to have each performance be AUSLAN interpreted, with its interpreter Dan being projected through a special hole on the set. “He’s woven into the fabric of the show, and his presence means that every performance is accessible for AUSLAN users.”

Johnathon says watching the audience’s reactions to what himself, Fleur and Dan are doing on stage is a highlight, “Sometimes you can see some audience members reacting to him [Dan] telling and explaining what the audience is hearing. There are some beautiful moments when people react to that.”

“The thing that I love the most is feeling like a conduit between all these humans that are asking us questions, trying to answer questions either factually or speculatively, and the audience who are also thinking about their own questions. I like that.”

Creation Creation presented by Windmill Theatre is part of the AWESOME Festival and is playing at the State Theatre Centre of WA – Heath Ledger Theatre from Tuesday the 27th of September to Saturday the 1st of October.