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Going Off Record On Stage

11 August 2016 | 2:47 pm | Paul Ransom

"I don't think there's one bit of unison in the show because it's not about everyone being the same."

To step into the Artistic Director role at an established company, a role vacated by the much celebrated founder of the company, is probably daunting enough. But for your debut work to be playing in potentially tricky political territory must surely add to the tension. Not so, it would seem, for Danielle Micich, the new AD at Force Majeure.

With a long history of directing, choreographing and working extensively as an independent practitioner in Perth, Micich decamped to Sydney last year to take over the reins vacated by Kate Champion. "Force Majeure had this reputation that I was well aware of, so walking into this position actually inspires me. I mean, I know we talk about stepping into somebody's shoes but actually I'm a much larger shoe size," she says. "What I mean by that is that I've never been overwhelmed by talking over her role."

"[If] they want to show a side of themselves that they would normally want to hide then we have the chance to understand that 'this is how it is for me'."

For her first piece as company AD, she is teaming up with five 'mixed ability' performers to take the audience behind the veil of privacy and into the more secret parts of the self. Yet Off The Record is more than a simple foray into the lives of the performers, it's about both revealing and concealing and, more specifically, it's a direct challenge to the performers to confront their personal boundaries in public.

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"I wouldn't say that's the point of it," Micich adds, "but if the show goes there and we have the permission of the performers to do that and they want to show a side of themselves that they would normally want to hide then we have the chance to understand that 'this is how it is for me'."

With a cast that includes deaf actor Alex Jones and renowned Down Syndrome performer Gerard O'Dwyer, Off The Record looks to push this envelope into sensitive personal and political territory. Indeed, as Danielle Micich admits, "There have been times where we have absolutely stepped over the line and the artists have called us on it."

Micich is also well aware that the potential for soapbox tokenism is ever present with a show like Off The Record. In this, she allows herself to be guided by the performers themselves. After all, it's their lives up there on stage. "Any time that anything has been problematic, tokenistic, or cross[ed] the line, they're always brought up. Even yesterday, Alex [Jones] our deaf actor was looking at a new scene and he was like 'this line here, we need to talk about this'. But y'know, even though he was saying we shouldn't say it I was like, 'but could it be said? Like, why not?' So then there was this big discussion around the politics of it."

At the end of the day though, Off The Record has a simple rule of thumb; one that transcends the standard issue middle class equality motif. As Micich pointedly concludes, "I don't think there's one bit of unison in the show because it's not about everyone being the same."