Making your own work is one of the best ways to gain experience and build your network in the industry, and we want to give our students every chance of success. That’s why in 2018, we launched Fine at Fringe, a program designed to offer support to HFAS students and friends wishing to stage works during the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

This year, three original works from current HFAS Full Time students, graduates and members of the wider community were selected to receive financial and marketing support, mentorship and rehearsal space as part of Fine at Fringe. From a drag revenge fantasy to an original dramatic thriller, to a one-man exploration of sexuality and shame through the words of Shakespeare and the music of the ‘60s, we’re thrilled to be able to support such a diverse range of works this year!

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be introducing you to 2019’s Fine at Fringe winners, starting with Gone Girls. Created by Patrick Livesey and Esther Myles, Gone Girls is a high-camp political comedy exploring two of Australia’s most infamous and influential women, Julie Bishop and Julia Gillard. We had a chat with HFAS Full Time graduate Esther Myles all about the show…

Q. Hi Esther! Can you tell us a bit about your show Gone Girls? Where did the inspiration come from?

The original stroke of genius was Patrick’s. He had been wanting to do a show about Australian politics and this was one idea he’d been sitting on - he just needed a Julie! From there it just took on a life of its own. Election Night was big turning point for us though. The shock and disappointment of that night lit a fire under us and suddenly a play about selfishness, ego and short-sightedness in politics felt very timely.   

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Q. What was the writing/script development process like?

Esther: First research. There’s been a lot of reading of news stories from the last twenty years or so, listening to podcasts and watching interviews. Then a lot of in depth discussion about the problems of the world and lots of laughter about how to bring comedy into it. Patrick has done almost all of the initial writing, and then I edit and we discuss further. I think once we found that rhythm and where our talents were working best it really started coming together.

Q. Your show is described as a 'drag revenge fantasy that tears through the halls of Parliament and Australian politics'. What sort of conversations do you hope it will prompt amongst audience members? Does humour play an important role in the show? 

Esther: Our aim is to use humour to shake up our audience’s preconceived ideas about politics and power and how all the partisanship and egoism of Canberra affects us. We want to throw in some wild fiction to make our viewers rethink the public personas of our leaders and we want people to be thinking about the rollercoaster of our nation’s last decade politically and ultimately start conversations about where we should be heading now.

Q. You’re playing Julie Bishop in Gone Girls. Has your HFAS training come in handy during the rehearsal process? Have you found any challenges with playing a real person?

Esther: Julie Bishop is not someone I would normally align myself with. Before embarking on this project I would be very quick to distance myself from her in every way. My HFAS training, particularly always coming back to the key question “Who Am I?” has allowed me to put that aside and find the truth of Julie within myself. We both love our families, we both work hard to get what we want, we both believe we’re good people.

Playing a real person is pretty daunting because there’s so much material to process. A politician in particular has been so observed and judged and pigeon-holed. In a highly performative style such as this, it could be easy to lose a character’s humanity and play them as a two-dimensional caricature. Instead I’ve been able to find the madness and comedy in the truth of her story and behaviour.   

Q. What have been the biggest challenges about developing you own show?

Esther: For me I think it’s been time. I don’t think any artist ever feels like they’ve done enough or that they’ve finished. Dealing with that on two fronts takes a lot of willpower.

In saying that, there is some double ups. Any research for the script informs acting homework, and vice versa. Likewise, reading drafts of the script with our actor brains switched on gives more depth. Constantly asking “what is making me do this” encourages more complex writing.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Esther! Gone Girls is playing at the Melbourne Fringe Festival from September 12 - 29. Click here to get your tickets: