GATHO AT MINE Fringe double debut for Curtin duo

After their award-winning season at Fringe World 2021, theatre duo Kyra Belford-Thomas and Nelson Fannon return this summer with their new, original ‘dramedy’ Gatho At Mine. Described as “the quintessential high school party,” Gatho at Mine is replete with fairy lights, first kisses, Cruisers stashed in backpacks, and “the torment of young adulthood,” running from Wednesday, February 2 to Sunday, February 12 at the Hayman Theatre, Curtin University. BRAYDEN EDWARDS spoke to co-writer Kyra Belford-Thomas to find out how they are bringing this exploration of the often embarrassing, always uncomfortable Australian high school experience to the stage. 

What is the origin of this story and how long has it been in the works for?

Gatho at Mine was inspired by the 16th birthday of my high school best friend, so I guess you could say it has been in the works since then. It was the first party I’d ever been to with alcohol and kissing, and it was that first venture into a more ‘grown up’ world for a lot of my classmates. There is something so relatable and endearing about the naivety of a bunch of kids who think they know everything when they really don’t – and at its heart, that is what the play is about.

High school is such a formative time of our lives…does this show draw on some of the challenges, and also the positives, that teenagers experience?

Absolutely! Most people will agree that being a teenager is pretty bloody tricky. From navigating school, to relationships and the expectations and pressures of family, it can be a really turbulent time. That being said, there is definitely fun to be had along the way. I’d say Gatho at Mine is a pretty open and honest delve into every corner of the high school experience; the fun and exciting, awkward and embarrassing, and even the darker, more difficult moments as well.

 How is this different from last year’s Fringe show Five Stubbies for a Six-Pack? Do you feel the style or approach carries through both performances?

Although the subject matter is quite different from Five Stubbies for a Six-Pack, I’d say there are still lots of similarities. Just like last year, we have created a show that has a combination of light hearted laughs and vulnerable moments. And also like Five Stubbies, you will also find some larger-than-life, quirky and offbeat characters on the stage in Gatho at Mine!

Who have you enlisted to bring this show to life and how have they shaped the production?

We had the mammoth task of holding 97 auditions over a cumulative five days! The talent we saw made things very difficult, but in the end we managed to find our perfect six actors to bring the show to life. Each of our actors brings something unique to their characters, and I feel very lucky to have them on board.

Of course, I am also working alongside my assistant director and co-producer Nelson, the brains behind Five Stubbies for a Six-Pack in 2021. I am very grateful to have an assistant director on board, to share ideas and make sure we keep pushing the boundaries of what we thought was possible for the show.

And is there a message you hope audiences will take away from this show?

Alongside the nostalgia, and awkward humour the story brings, there are also some darker and more serious moments. The show tackles some of the very real issues faced by teenagers past and present, including mental health, drugs and alcohol, sexuality and consent.

I hope the audience walks away from Gatho at Mine reflecting on how the difficulties of our adolescence shape and impact the adults we become, for better and for worse, and how we can better equip young people to make it out onto the other side.

 And how about you, what are you looking forward to most about this hitting the stage?

 I’m so excited for audiences to see all of the hard work that the team has put in. I really hope that everyone who comes along to see the show catches a little glimpse of their high school selves reflected on stage.

 What’s next? Can we expect to see this show, or even anything new in the future?

That’s a hard question. I know it sounds cliche, but it really is quite an uncertain time when it comes to live theatre. We are so grateful that the last two Fringe World Festivals have been able to safely go ahead in Perth and we have our fingers crossed for 2023. There are definitely more shows to come… we have lots of stories we want to tell!

How did Sunburnt Productions Co come to be formed and what are you hoping for in the future of the organisation?

Sunburnt Productions Co came out of the success of Five Stubbies for a Six-Pack in 2020/2021. I think the draw card for a show like Five Stubbies was how relatable and accessible it was to everyone, regardless of whether you are an avid theatre goer or you’ve never seen a play in your life. Nelson and I knew that it was the kind of work we wanted to keep making, and so Sunburnt Productions Co was born! We are passionate about telling local stories filled with heart, laughs and tenderness and hope to continue doing so on Perth stages, and maybe someday even further afield.

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