Night Writes caught up with performer Margaret Thanos ahead of the most recent development of Spider in My Soup at Bondi Feast.
What sparked your involvement with Spider in My Soup?
I met Nicole Pingon, the creator-brain behind Spider in My Soup, at the beginning of 2018 when we just coincidentally kept bumping into one another. We just had that weird thing where you know you’re just meant to be friends with a person! I randomly invited Nicole to my birthday last year even though I barely knew her. When Nicole mentioned that she had been selected for the Shopfront Arts Co-op’s ArtsLab residency, to create an “exploration of surveillance and its nature in a contemporary Australian context”, I got very excited and wanted in! Nicole brought myself and Bernadette Fam on to help devise. The show has changed a hecktonne since that original pitch since it’s now about spiders, but I’m so happy with how it morphed and changed.
Has future you ever dropped in to say hello? Is it like reverse deja vu?
I’ve thought about this a lot over the course of doing this show. Whenever I see a spider now I literally ask it if it’s future me trying to tell me something is wrong. A consequence of playing this character in Spider in My Soup is that I now talk to spiders. I haven’t seen a spider for a while, and I’m extremely happy in my life, so perhaps my spidey friends/future selves are content with the path I’m on for now. I always think about how at the end of last year, during a bit of a wonky time in my life, I was continually seeing spiders in my house and at work. So who knows, maybe my future selves were saying “Margaret, make a change! We believe in you!”
When a spider drops in now, I don’t really see it as reverse deja vu but more as an opportunity to reflect on my life, and to re-evaluate the choices that I’m making. I think those reflections are so important for personal growth.
What’s something you wish you could go back in time to relive or change?
I’m not really the kind of person that dwells on the past and wishes to go back and change things. I’m so happy in my current life and I’m feeling so grateful for all the beautiful people around me, and opportunities like Spider in My Soup. I think every choice that we make brings us to who we are in the present. That sounds kind of cliche, but I honestly just don’t regret very much. However, I’m also nineteen so there’s plenty of time for all this regret business.
What has been your experience with the process of this show? What was challenging and what was successful?
Devising is a bloody difficult but also very rewarding process. I’ve loved being able to improvise, write, and come up with new ways to create and make theatre. The challenging days were when we would sit around a whiteboard trying to figure out our narrative and style for hours on end (particularly when we had differing opinions) but ultimately all that hard work together as a team does come to fruition in the end.
We were lucky enough via Artslab to have a couple of showings where we tested things out on a live audience which I absolutely loved. Originally the show was immersive! So we played with audience members and made them dance, and share things about themselves which was so much fun! Spider in My Soup has taught me so much about how to be brave with ideas and the importance of a comfortable, safe space for making theatre. It’s been really fantastic!
How do your experiences connect with the show’s themes of memory, friendship, and the natural world?
The story of these two friends drifting apart over time is one that I can definitely relate to, and I feel like most people can. It is inevitable in life that people drift apart in order to grow, but it can sometimes be a very painful process. I’ve drifted from friends over the years that sometimes I’ll think about and wonder how they are and be reminded of those fond memories we have from our childhood. I think Spider in My Soup really reminds audiences of the friends that they may have drifted from, but also encourages the idea that moving on is sometimes the best thing.
In terms of the natural world, I think Spider in My Soup encourages audiences to take the time to appreciate spiders more, but also just the natural world in general. Over this devising process, I’ve become so much more aware of nature and am in awe of how it persists despite the huge interruptions people and humanity makes to it. I wish Spider in My Soup could cure arachnophobia, but if it makes you a little more fond of spiders that’s good too.
What can the audience expect from the dreamscape of Spider in My Soup?
Audiences can expect to see beautiful images, and really appreciate the dreamscape where the natural, spider world, and our world intersect. When these worlds clash and we delve into the past, audiences can expect to feel joy but also be reminded of regret for drifting from a friend. With the music, movement and theatre elements combined, it becomes an assault on the senses, which lifts the show to new heights, and will hopefully make the audience feel emotions. Hopefully.
How do the performance, musical, and sensory aspects of the show interact with each other and inform the narrative?
Bernadette and I are the real world action of the piece largely, while Emily Henderson and Ruby King (our lovely musicians who represent our respective spiders) are creating this soundtrack to our existence almost. The spiders use their sounds to try and interfere with our lives. Bernadette and I also lean into movement that is more along the lines of dance at certain points, as we discovered along this devising process the power of images against and/or alongside dialogue. These elements all combine to tell a story about letting go of friendships and how sometimes people become too different.
How does this show fit into or relate to the wider Australian performance scene?
I think in many ways this show is unlike anything that I’ve seen before. While the story is so simple and something that everyone can relate to, it’s wholesome content and playful nature is beautiful and something that I rarely see now in our industry of violence, gore and “pushing the limits”. I think Spider in My Soup pushes the limits in a different way. It combines our beautiful live musicians Ruby and Emily with movement, theatre, and powerful images. Spider in My Soup seeks to create wholesome content that can make an audience feel warm and fuzzy, and bring back to them those memories of childhood playfulness.
What’s coming up next for you?
Next for me, I’ll be tapping back into more directing! I’m directing an original work Jim Got Shot for the Sydney University Dramatic Society, and also will be the assistant director of Bathory Begins at ATYP at Q Theatre in Penrith. Hopefully Spider will make another return! I hope that’s coming up too!
Spider in My Soup will be running from July 9th – 11th as part of Bondi Feast. For more information and to purchase tickets, check out the Bondi Feast website.