Lucy Yabsley: Fringe Festival Emerging Director on Dollhouse & More Post-AIM

Lucy Yabsley is a talented young director who just claimed the “NIDA Emerging Director” award for her work on Dollhouse Collective’s play, “A Thousand Words” at the Sydney Fringe Festival. The graduate of AIM’s Bachelor of Performance degree speaks to AIM about her work and the Dollhouse Collective from an extended working holiday in London where she is expanding her knowledge of theatre in other parts of the world, and working towards her next project. 

“Dollhouse Collective is made up of fem-identifying and queer artists,” Lucy says of the adventurous theatre group she founded at AIM with fellow students. “We embody feminine gutsy power and look to produce work that reflects that. We want to create a space for visceral, kooky, meaningful work,” she continues. “As emerging artists, we have to create work we want to see ourselves, rather than wait around for the perfect thing to come along,” she says. “We strive to create work that reflects who we are; strong, complex creatures,” Lucy explains. She is passionate about gender, racial and sexual equality and her work speaks for itself.

Dollhouse’s focus is creating performances that hold a mirror to their deeper selves and confront spiky issues in a way that can strike a deep chord with their audiences. “So far, we have produced work about mental health, death, fandoms and identity in the forms of physical theatre, cabaret and theatre of the absurd,” she says. “Our goal moving forward is to explore themes of accessibility, queerness and potentially start to investigate adapting classics with a Dollhouse lens,” she adds.  

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You’ve just won Emerging Director for your work “A Thousand Words” at Sydney Fringe Festival. How were you involved in the project as a director? What did that role encompass?

Lucy: As director, my main responsibility is to “captain the ship” if you will. All decisions regarding the play must run through me. I’m in charge of cultivating a creative vision and sticking to it, slowly chipping away with all members of the creative team and actors to bring the final vision to life. From the start, (which in this case was finding the play) right up until that final performance, I’m involved in every aspect as a leader and supporter of all departments but most crucially it is my role to work with my actors to make sure they deliver a performance they are proud of and that serves the text.

What was the most vulnerable element of the creative process? 

Lucy: For me, it’s always that moment during technical rehearsals (which usually happens one or two days before the opening performance) when everything is coming together for the first time and you’re reaching that final hurdle before an audience will see it for the first time.  You’re wondering if you’ve made all the right decisions and if an audience will value and enjoy your work. Every creative understands that little negative voice in your head, that creeping in of doubt, that’s when I feel the most vulnerable.  

What was the catalyst for forming Dollhouse Collective? 

Lucy: Dollhouse Collective was formed as part of our final assessment at AIM. We were tasked to form a theatre company to write, direct, market and perform two short plays as part of the Emerge Festival. One of our shows “Playpen” was a work that we wanted to take beyond AIM so we made the decision to continue our theatre company and it grew from there. We’ve been so lucky to not only create our own work but produce other works by emerging artists, culminating in three shows this year.

How did AIM play into its formation? 

Lucy: The structure of the Bachelor of Performance course was so well-rounded; it allowed us to gain skills in all areas of theatre-making, not just acting. It gave us room to gravitate to areas that we are confident in, whether that be performing, directing, writing, producing or design but simultaneously challenged us to work at all those areas. This means we have all left with a plethora of skills. I was also lucky enough to form such a close friendship and creative bond with the girls that make up Dollhouse Collective.  

How do you collaborate?

Lucy: My way of collaborating stems from my belief that creative individuals have so much to offer. There are always thousands of ways things can be done, no one way is right. So it’s about being open, communicative and understanding of everyone’s skills and process. I have always been a learner so I collaborate by letting myself learn and grow from others and letting them learn and grow from me.  

What’s been your most typical day? What’s been your least typical day?

Lucy: My most typical day is working at Belvoir St Theatre as a Front of House team member which allows me to be in and amongst the current Australian theatre landscape. It allows me to be inspired and be an active member of the theatre community whilst I work towards my next projects.

My least typical days are what I’m currently experiencing now, which is travelling around Europe whilst I work out my next move.  

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