This week is the first back in rehearsals for Erin Fowler, after a rare break from juggling the many facets of her life as an independent movement artist. In the studio, she’s getting reacquainted with her solo work EGG – preparing for a remount season at this year’s Fringe.
Her return has been marred by the stress of COVID’s omnipresence.
Fowler says the show itself, which explores fraught questions about having children through the touchstones of her personal experiences, is “joyful” but also demanding. Directed and co-written by Hew Parham, it draws on Fowler’s background as a contemporary dancer but also incorporates relatively new skills in clowning and theatre – creating an unusually honest and levity-filled atmosphere around its complex themes.
Well-received in its debut season at Adelaide Fringe 2021, EGG was destined to use the open-access festival as a springboard into a wider touring schedule.
It’s a presentation pathway Fowler had followed successfully with her previous solo work. Femme had a strong premiere season at Fringe in 2019 and returned in 2020 to win the Made in Adelaide Award, resulting in funding to take the work to the Edinburgh Fringe.
“I did a second season of Femme [at Adelaide Fringe]… and really loved that because I kind of felt confident and knew what the show was, but also you’re still able to find new things in it.
“And then I was able to take the show to Edinburgh Fringe, which has always been a dream of mine. After that, it got booked into venues with some support in places like Sydney and Melbourne.
“Touring my shows is really where I always wanted to get to.”
EGG was set to follow in Femme’s footsteps. Intensive initial creative development at the end of 2020 led to a debut Fringe season that inspired confidence in Fowler and programmers across the country.
“I really love starting my shows off in the Fringe because of the support that it offers,” she says. “Audiences really get how Fringe works, and so there’s a degree of confidence in knowing that, hopefully, people will come to your show.
“I’ve also been really, really fortunate in the last few years to have gotten to receive funding through Arts South Australia and the Fringe for my projects.”
But the months that followed EGG’s premiere were not what any of us hoped for. Its runs at both Sydney and Melbourne Fringes were cancelled due to COVID-19.
However, through the innovation of Black Box Live’s digital seasons, the show’s touring pulse has been kept beating. EGG was made available for streaming as part of Edinburgh Fringe and Hollywood Fringe and, at the latter, won the award for Best Dance and Physical Theatre.
While unavoidably still at the mercy of COVID case numbers and restrictions, Fowler is excited for a return to in-person performance at the upcoming Adelaide Fringe.
Throughout a difficult year, she has kept an even keel as an independent creator by leaning into other aspects of her practice, which includes workshops in movement traditions like Qoya and tantra, and collaboratively operating mobile bar The Speakeasy Hotel.
The next season of EGG, though, has remained a light on the horizon. Adapted and updated to suit the changes in Fowler’s life (the original show copy describes her as “single and 32”, she is now 33 and in a relationship), the work is a chance for connection.
“So much of performing to me is about the engagement with the audience,” says Fowler.
“I think I’m really drawn to just honesty and those parts of human experience that we all touch upon, but sometimes can be a little bit scared to talk about. There are some things that I really like about creating spaces of safety for people to speak about those things maybe.
“So, I guess the impulse to share the story of EGG was that I feel for women there’s still a little bit of… shame or uncertainty or reservation about really honestly speaking about becoming a mother.”
With luck (and a heavy dose of good governmental management and science), EGG’s return season at Fringe will signal the resumption of its touring life, and Fowler will get her long-awaited opportunity to foster this conversation in person and beyond South Australia’s borders.
EGG is showing February 17-20 at The Breakout at The Mill and is available on-demand through Black Box Live from February 18, both through Adelaide Fringe.
The Business of Art is an InReview series about the development of performing arts careers and opportunities from Adelaide. The series has been produced with the support of Adelaide Fringe.
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