4 March 2024

Social satire collides with spectacular physical performance in Stunt Double

| Emma Batchelor
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Stunt Double on stage

Stunt Double showcases the extraordinarily difficult and painful work of stunt performers. Photo: Jade Ferguson.

Inspired by the real-life experiences of stunt performers comes Stunt Double, a propulsive new theatrical work from award-winning dance and theatre collective, The Farm. Fuelled by spectacular stunts and cutting comedy, this immersive production explores the very human cost of celebrity.

“Once you are aware of that cost, it is quite a profound realisation,” says Luke Smiles, the show’s composer and sound designer.

“We are drawn into the glamour, the glitz, and the hierarchy of stardom within the film industry, which leaves us completely oblivious to the stunt people doing extraordinarily difficult, often painful work. They have to perform incredible physical feats and jump right back up to do it again without appearing tired or hurt.”

While the industry is far more regulated these days, the 1970s Ozploitation era film sets that have inspired Stunt Double were rife with unsafe and unfair practice.

“It is so hard to watch the way women in particular are portrayed in the cinema from this time,” Luke says. “They are not given the credit or the power that they deserve, for both the work they are doing and for who they are.”

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In particular, Stunt Double draws on cult classic Australian films including Wake in Fright and Mad Max. These films, alongside two others, The Man From Hong Kong and Turkey Shoot are being screened at the National Film and Sound Archive to supplement the audience experience of the live performance.

Also unique to Stunt Double is the opportunity the production offers to a select group of audience volunteers who are welcomed on stage in the roles of extras, gaffers, clappers, and members of the art department.

“We are bringing volunteers all the way onto the stage where they play integral roles within the confines of particular scenes,” Luke explains. “There is nothing that puts them on a spot or makes them feel uncomfortable.

“We did a lot of development [of the work] on the Gold Coast with a huge number of volunteers coming through. The feedback we got was that the experience of being a volunteer was so much more profound than we could describe in advance. We have been really blown away by the feedback.”

Stunt Double on stage

Stunt Double is showing at Canberra Theatre Centre from 14-16 March. Photo: Jade Ferguson.

The Farm is heavily invested in audience experience, both those participating on stage and sitting in the theatre. Through multiple creative developments, the team works together to create something that draws on all elements of the theatrical experience equally.

“After many years of creating work with similar teams, you come to have an innate understanding of each other’s strengths and ideas,” Luke says.

“There is no way you could arrive at Stunt Double with a team who had never worked with one another before. This show is the product of our history and our understanding of each other and what we can each bring and are interested in.”

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This deep collaboration yields a performance that is as visually and aurally spectacular as it is thought-provoking, something that exceeds expectations.

“What is amazing about Stunt Double, is that we lay it all right out in front of you,” Luke says.

“There are people actually performing awesome stunts in real time. There are fight scenes, flips, and massive action set pieces. You are seeing it for real. And through that you become aware of the cost and the impact that has on people.

Stunt Double is like a magic trick: no matter how closely you are watching, it always reveals something new.”

Stunt Double is co-commissioned by the Canberra Theatre Centre alongside national partners Brisbane Festival, Perth Festival, Darwin Festival and HOTA.

Stunt Double

Canberra Theatre Centre
14-16 March 2024
Buy Tickets

Ozploitation Series

National Film and Sound Archive
25 February – 3 March 2024
Buy Tickets

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