Dusty May Taylor
When asked what audiences can expect from Album Party, Kate and Frith were a rapid-fire tumult of enthusiasm.
Kate: It's the biggest, most extravagant over-the-top pop concert by two quite shitty pop stars that you will ever see. It’s The Topp Twins meets Britney Spears meets Flight of the Conchords in a big mashup of ridiculousness.
In the spirit of popdom, I picked up the names they dropped, and asked if they could tell me a bit more about Album Party’s premise.
Kate: Two failed popstars, TYLA and DENI$ had a big meltdown nine years ago, and haven't been seen or heard from since. Their friendship used to be rock strong, but has been diminished to nothing. This one-off concert is the first time they get to connect with an audience and connect with each other again. The show features twelve original songs, which are all pretty ridiculous and fun and great.
Frith: The style is very much a tribute to Nicki Minaj, Britney, Iggy Azalea, and 90s girls groups.
Kate: We have the most amazing musicians. The songs are so sick. They're so good.
McGill and Horan turned to each other and gesticulated madly in mutual frustration of lacking words to communicate the awesomeness of Album Party’s beats, delivered to audiences through TYLA and DENI$’s ReDempShun tour.
Frith: Any child of the 90s will really appreciate our music.
Kate: There are all these little tips of the hat to Brandy and TLC.
Any meaning in this party?
Kate: The aim for the show is pure entertainment and joy. Hopefully by the end of the show you're dancing with us. In these times there's so much going on in the world, you need a break.
I wondered, with such powerhouse characters, is there a feminist theme at play? The girls shrugged in response.
Kate: The fact that we are two female theatre creators who have written these strong female characters for ourselves to play, that's the part of it that sends a message.
Having seen the unbearably catchy music video for “Gas-in-my Ass-o-line,” I remarked that it could be either freeing or awkward to play the characters of TYLA and DENI$. As actors, how did they feel about it?
Frith: I love it. They are essentially clowns, these characters. When you have a clown, all the rules go out the window, which for an actor is the greatest and scariest thing ever. We know these women so well. We know the games they play with the audience and with each other.
Kate: Pop stars aren't successful unless they have a certain level of confidence. One theme we explore is what being a pop star does to us as performers. I can get up and rap in front you guys and not give two shits.
Pop stars as modern day clowns is a loaded concept. Based on what I was hearing, there would be little difference between a pop star portraying a clown for stardom and an actor portraying a clown for a role. Is this harmful, beneficial, somewhere in between? Curious, I asked about their commentary on the pop industry.
Kate: Something we really focus on is the giving up of who you are. These human beings are turned into a brand, and that's who they become. Their humanity kind of goes out the window. We explore that in a way that's not heavy. We all buy into it, and we want to laugh at how ridiculous it is. When TYLA and DENI$ engage with the audience, a lot of the games centre around when they're being truthful and when they are lying.
Frith: Comedy always has to stem from truth.
Kate: The goal is to get people to laugh at their own culture, and just shake it all out.
Album Party’s youth engagement?
When asked what else they wanted to share about Album Party, Kate McGill and Frith Horan erupted.
Frith: The kids! We're very excited about the kids. We've got ten Wellington dancers who have come from local schools and acting workshops. We're so excited. We've had five backup dancers in Auckland but we're going to 13.
Kate: Getting young people involved has been one of the most rewarding parts for us. We’re seeing them grow in influence and have more of a part in creating the show and the characters, hopefully giving them a key to creating their own work, and possibly creating their own shows.
Frith: Introduction to the theatre is the main thing. And they're cool.
Kate: They're so cool. It's stressing me out, the stuff they come up with. They're a lot more sophisticated than I was at that age.
Frith: They bring a whole other level to the show that takes it from sixty to a billion.
What is The Besties Tour?
Kate: The Besties Tour is about bridging the divide from a practitioner to practitioner point of view. The Auckland-Wellington relationship can be interesting, but we're all just people doing our own thing. BATS and The Basement are both really great stomping grounds for any demographic, particularly new practitioners, and they have a lower price point than other theatres. So they decided to do a collaboration where they share work, and call it The Besties Tour. They take shows from Auckland and bring them to Wellington and vice versa, and provide a support system for emerging artists.
What are the advantages of this?
Kate: Conversation can be had. They can test whether audiences engage in the same way or differently. Also, there's a lot of administration in these theatres. It means people like us get additional marketing support through groups like Elephant Publicity, which is worth its weight in gold. It's really hard to get a new show off the ground without that support.
Will this partnership create fresh momentum for emerging theatre practitioners in Wellington and Auckland?
Frith: There are so many shows at BATS and The Basement that go nowhere because there's no support. Now artists have the chance to do multiple seasons, and continue to grow the work. Hopefully we’ll see these works progress to other theatres, or national tours and festivals. It gives people a launch pad to take their work to the world. We'd love to take Album Party to the Edinburgh Fringe, the Melbourne Fringe. Each time we do a show we're making it stronger and tighter and better.
Their final thoughts?
Frith: Come to the party of the century! You will not be disappointed!
Kate: We'll have you dancing in the aisles by the end of it.
With help from directors Holly Chappell and Tom Eason, Musical Director Adrian Hooke and musician Oswell Didsbury, TYLA and DENI$ are confident and ready to hit the Wellington stage. Support Album Party and The Besties Tour by checking them out 13-17 December at BATS Theatre.