mudfest, not a dudfest18 February 2015
“It’s still hard to believe that all this actually happened,” Declan Mulcahy, says of Mudfest 2015, the biannual arts festival that showcases student creativity at the University of Melbourne. “The 10 days of the festival were all about bringing the show onto the stage, watching the art work of others, and going into the big tent in the evening, laughing, dancing and drinking with everyone.”
Declan directed ___Day Night’s Dream, one of the shows presented at Mudfest. The piece was an audience favorite, attracting 40 people to the 30-seat venue on closing night.
___Day Night’s Dream consists of seven different dreams, covering subjects as diverse as the interrogation of the innocent and the existence of tame foxes.
Declan came up with the initial idea when he was traveling in New Zealand earlier this year. Soon after, he started asking his friends to write down their dreams. He chose people with distinct backgrounds, ideologies and personalities, who he thought would have interesting ideas and would know how to present these ideas.
“And they proved me right,” Declan said.
Melbourne physical theatre group DIG Collective came on as creative partners, providing invaluable industry insights and feedback on Declan’s initial concept.
The final product perfectly reflected this year’s festival themes of accessibility, sustainability, education and community.
The play invited the audience into the set and, by extension, right into the dreams of the play’s characters. The venue, a big lounge with microwaves and couches, was cleared of furniture to make room for each of the seven dreams to set up separately in different corners. When the audience entered, they gathered where the first performance was being staged and then moved on to the next one. By the end of the show they’d completed a big loop of the room and were shown out of the lounge.
To achieve sustainability, Declan and his crew renounced elaborate technical set-ups; instead, they simply foraged for everything they could get their hands on, using Facebook to ask friends for their help.
Take the first lamp used in the show – a beautiful, big standing type that probably came from IKEA originally, which was lit by the first performer to start the first dream. The audience followed the light to the scene and when the dream was finished, the lamp was switched on by another actor and everyone moved to the next lamp. Everything was simple and homemade.
The entire crew for __Day Night’s Dream consisted of only Declan and the seven dreamers, with significant assistance from the festival directors, officers and volunteers.
Those involved in Mudfest feel strongly that they are part of a community. “By the end of the festival, almost everyone involved has come to know everyone else,” Declan said, “When it came to the closing party, it was a night with a lot of glitter, a lot of dancing, and a lot of singing along loudly. It was a sense of everybody in the community having achieved something and having just had a good time together.”
The play was one of the most frequently reviewed shows in the festival. Declan and his collaborators were also awarded the Fringe Prize, which provided them with the necessary fee to register in the Melbourne and Adelaide Fringe, the two largest annual independent arts festivals in Australia.