This week, we're excited to introduce you to the second winners of our 2018 Fine at Fringe program, Spinning Plates Co. 

Spinning Plates are a new Melbourne based theatre and film collective, founded by HFAS Full Time course graduates Jessica Stanley and James Cerche, and we're incredibly excited to be supporting them in their debut production! 

We had a chat to actress and playwright Jessica Stanley about their new company, and their upcoming production of the James Fritz's play Ross and Rachel

Q. Tell us a bit about Ross and Rachel. 

Jessica: Ross & Rachel is a one person show with two voices, a dualogue for one. It is the playwright’s imagining of what may have happened to our favourite sitcom couple ten years after they get together, and wonders - what happens when two friends who get together, stay together? And should they have ever gotten together in the first place? No knowledge of Friends is required to enjoy this piece, though!

This piece first came to my attention when a friend described her experience of seeing it at Edinburgh Fringe in 2015, where it had its very successful debut. Simply from the way she spoke about it and how moving it was, I ordered a copy of the script and fell in love with it. For a year or so I waited eagerly for them to announce an Australian tour, but then at some moment last year had the realisation that I should just do it myself. 

I shared the script with (fellow HFAS Full Time graduate) Faran Martin and she fell in love too, and we had our director. James Cerche came on board to co-produce, and it made sense for James to be on the team because this will be the first show under the name of our own theatre company, Spinning Plates!

Ross and Rachel Melbourne Fringe Festival Jessica Stanley

Q. What drew you to the script?

Jessica: I was drawn in by the way it was described to me because it sounded so impossible – one actor performing two roles at once, so seamlessly and effectively, and the way that two very famous fictional characters had had their ending rewritten. The script is written out as though it’s an epic poem and few sentences are ever completed. It presents such a challenging way of working with text. I’m terrified but so excited to tackle something so unique and non-naturalistic.

Q. You're working with some of your fellow HFAS students to put on this production. What do you like about working with HFAS students?

Jessica: I love working with my fellow HFAS students because we’re all on the same page and speak the same language. There’s an understanding of the way we will go about rehearsals together in a collaborative and curious way, and I know that I can trust every voice in that room to always speak from a place of truth and respect, with the end goal of serving the playwright and the work. I can trust that my director, Faran Martin, will be able to identify what’s working, what’s not, and why, and that she will direct from a place of “Why would you do this? Let’s discover…” rather than “How would you do this? I think you should walk over there and say it like this…”. Because we were in class together for a year, and now run a theatre company together, we have such a great connection that will make rehearsals safe and mutually enjoyable as we continue to learn together.

Q. Tell us about your new theatre company, Spinning Plates?

James Cerche and Jessica Stanley of Spinning Plates Co

James Cerche and Jessica Stanley of Spinning Plates Co

Jessica: Spinning Plates is a new collective formed by my partner, James Cerche, and me. We met at Monash University years ago, then reconnected at the Howard Fine Acting Studio. We are both a part of other theatre collectives, North of Eight and Goodnight Darlings, which we dedicate a lot of time to and love, but we decided to form a new, smaller collective so that we have a place to put on our dream projects – those plays that we individually have been dying to put on and act in. Spinning Plates is a platform for us to pursue those projects, while remaining focused on sharing strong writing and unique stories that deserve a voice, but also to get ourselves out there in the industry. Melbourne has such a strong independent theatre scene and so many creatives hungry for work; it’s not enough anymore to wait for the work to come to you. Why wait for someone else to stick up an audition notice for your dream role? Make it yourself.

Whomever we are working with at the time we welcome as part of our collective. We are interested in presenting work that will continually develop, expand and challenge our craft, whilst always paying homage to technique and heart. Sometimes we make theatre and sometimes we make film.

Q. We love that after waiting for an Australian tour to be announced, you decided to get proactive and stage the show yourself! Do you have plans to do that with any other pieces? Any dream projects?

Jessica: We have just returned from attending the Last Frontier Theatre Conference in Valdez, Alaska. I was invited to attend for one of my own plays, but while we were there we were able to witness some incredible readings of new works, which we are now hoping to be able to bring to Australia for the first time. It really felt as though we were sitting in the room with some future very important and influential young playwrights, and we think it would be exciting to be able to produce their work for them – and for us, because they have written such amazing, complex characters that any actor would love to play with. We were so struck by the depths of research and challenging topics that had been taking on by some of these writers and want to honour that. We also each have a few dream projects on the discussion table; we’re both keen to look at Australian playwrights. I’m a big fan of two or three-handers, and James is really interested in immersive and interactive work. We aren’t in any rush to bring work out continuously; we’d rather focus on one or two works a year and put our heart and soul into them.


Thanks for taking the time to chat to us Jess! Ross and Rachel is playing at Theatre Works, as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival from September 18 - 23, and you can get tickets by clicking here

Click here to find out more about our Fine at Fringe program.