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Take Me Down - Lee Wilson Interview

Author: Darryn King
Tuesday, 27 May 2008
Paradise City, the brainchild of Lee Wilson and Mirabelle Wouters, is where urban life meets the theatre. A BMX champion, a pro-skateboarder and a b-boy trade moves with a singer, a dancer and a physical theatre performer. Lee Wilson spoke to Darryn King.

Firstly, what inspired the name 'Paradise City'-
I am interested in the idea of people finding challenges in the urban landscape and architecture: the way skaters, for example, carve maneuvers out of concrete purely for the experiential pleasure of their body in space. They are turning spaces that are void of meaning, or mainly related to commerce, into energetic and highly charged sites of cultural importance.

How did the initial concept of Paradise City come about-
The initial concept had its roots in our previous ensemble work that was looking at public space and how new cultures form in a shopping mall as they clash together. Paradise City is about something that is already existing in terms of BMX and skaters sharing the same turf at skate parks and certain street jamming spots - and also how they might be listening to hip hop and all kinds of music on their head phones - but also an idea of what the future might be as these forms communicate with one another on an artistic level and also just on a personal human communication level.

How did you choose the performers for Paradise City-
We went through a lengthy process of going to skating, BMX and breaking competitions. I learnt a great deal about the different forms and when we were making the work I had this picture of the people I had met a long the way and the conversations we had had, in my head. And I really wanted to make sure that the work was talking to those people, I had to make sure that the work maintained authenticity and didn't have naff embarrassing shit that an outsider might conceive as being cool.

It's clearly a very physical performance - have there been any nasty scrapes-
We just had a knee injury that required a replacement, and what came out of that was how hard it was to replace the people in the show, as they own so much of their material. But yeah there are the daily bruises, skin off, and sometimes like when Alex cut her toes on the metal part of a skate ramp: more blood on stage than a slaughtered pig- And about two hours ago, Kathryn copped a skateboard in her shin-

Inga Liljestrom seems perfectly suited to the project - how has she taken to her role as the fallen diva, and what does her role involve-
Inga has brought a warmth to the work. Her singing highlights the lyrical qualities of the movement, like the rolling of the wheels for example. She sings the thoughts of the performers, sometimes she is their breath, their sighs and their swoons.

Is there a particular pleasure in bringing something like this to spaces that might seem somewhat elite, like the Opera House-
There is a pleasure in sharing these street-style forms in a way that people might not have experienced; as moving, dramatic and artistic. There is also a pleasure in the way people are attracted to seeing the show because they are interested in the street-styles, and they also end up experiencing a piece of theatre that is challenging and with a contemporary vision.

WHAT: Paradise City
WHERE: Sydney Opera House
WHEN: Wednesday 28 May - Saturday 7 June