Bad Reputation: An Urgent International Response to Life Under Lockdown

­By Claude Sarmiento

Claude Sarmiento is a final year Creative Arts student. As part of his final semester, he participated in an international collaboration with theatre company Dopplegangster and students from Sheffield Hallam University (UK) to create a new audio series, Bad Reputation. Bad Reputation will be part of La Mama North, heading to Melbourne Fringe Festival from November 18 – 29.

I would describe working on Bad Reputation as a one of a kind experience. From the writing process to the recording journey, having the opportunity to work on a project during lockdown was inspiring and creatively stimulating and also served as a good distraction from the unfortunate circumstance that our world is currently in.

Working with students from Sheffield Hallam University in the UK has been a great joy and having their input in the writing process of it has been fantastic. We, the students from La Trobe, were able to find out about small aspects of their lives and their personalities despite only having spent very minimal time interacting with them through platforms such as Zoom. Each day for two weeks, the directors of Doppelgangster theatre company, Dr Tom Payne and Tobias Manderson-Galvin, posed us all prompts and questions on our Facebook group. Questions ranged from ‘tell us your favourite ancient myths’ to ‘what are the top ten albums you’d take if you were to live on a desert island’. We were also able to take creative liberties with our responses. Aside from just commenting them, we were able to submit them as audio recordings, videos, poems, and short stories. Throughout this process, I had no idea of how the final script would turn out but once we received it, I was amazed at the talent of Tom and Tobias in producing a script that not only was inspired by a short story, ‘Three Skeleton Key’, but it also spoke to our respective experiences in lockdown in Australia and the UK.

Recording these scenes was also a great experience. Having to submit individual recordings of each of our lines was laborious but in the best way possible. It was an interesting transition from live theatre performance, as we weren’t able to see and properly interact with our scene partners. This made it difficult at times when unsure of how to deliver certain lines, so we had to rely on reading the text and seeking advice from Tom and Tobias if needed. However, participating in a radio play was a first for me, and I hope I get more chances to do it again in the future. I was blown away upon hearing the final product and was blown away by the way it was structured and how music was overlayed on top of the audio to create the haunting and mysterious feel of the play. Hearing my voice as a skeleton from a sailor’s tattoo was amazing and made me very proud and honoured to be able to participate in Bad Reputation.

Bad Reputation is part of La Mama North: a pilot program connecting emerging artists from La Trobe University’s theatre program and La Mama Theatre, Melbourne’s iconic home of independent theatre. Bad Reputation is brought to you by world-leading political activist theatre company Doppelgangster featuring BA Acting & Performance students from Sheffield Hallam University (UK) and BA Creative Arts students from La Trobe University.

La Mama North is staging four digital events as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival from 18 – 29 November. For bookings and more information, head to the La Mama Website.