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Christine Bruno gets excited as she gets the part of Rita in Fittings new musical 'Raspberry' - by internet audition 6,000 miles away! / 1 April 2010

photo of two performers on stage

Photo of Christine Bruno (Rita) and Jem Dobbs (Dad) during rehearsals. Photo © Tim Morozzo.

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Six degrees of separation is a funny thing… you never realize it’s working its magic as it’s happening. But when you look back on the sequence of events that lead up to the event in question, it seems so obvious you ask yourself how you could have missed it. The world is small - and getting smaller every day. The world of theatre? Even smaller.

When the amazingly talented Liz Carr approached me last spring to direct the current incarnation of her one-woman show, It Hasn’t Happened Yet, shortly after a two-hour conversation on our way home from a day of frolicking with kangaroos and penguins in Melbourne. OK, we weren’t exactly frolicking with the roos… more like in danger of two crips being stampeded by the ravenous marsupials as we innocently each clutched a bag of pellets.

I could never have imagined working with her would lead me to Raspberry. If someone had told me a year later I’d be sharing the stage with these amazing actors and musicians six thousand miles from my postage stamp-size apartment in Greenwich Village, I would have told them they were confusing me with someone else. But such is the stuff of theatre -and at the risk of sounding melodramatic - dreams.

Before working with Liz, I thought of a raspberry as either a fruit or the obscene noise you make with your tongue to express cheeky disapproval. Cockney rhyming slang? “What the hell is that?” I asked wide-eyed. Mong, flid, raspberry ripple? This was some weird shit, man!

These Brits are ballsy, for sure. But by the end of my initiation into the strangely logical world of rhyming slang, I was hooked—flidding, spazzing, and rippling with the best of them. So by the time I finally met the ubiquitous Garry Robson, I was primed and ready. Six degrees, my friends. We knew a lot of the same people and shared a love of theatre and music. Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick and Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll made it to the U.S... but an American Dury fan, sadly, is a rare thing.

So when Garry asked me to audition for a new musical he had written inspired by the life and songs of Ian Dury, I jumped at the chance (well, not exactly jumped, but you get the idea.)

It was all very 21st century. How were we going to make this work with six thousand miles between us? “Well, I could film my audition and upload it to the internet and then we could set up a meeting via Skype on the day of the audition,” I offered, having no idea how I was going to make it happen.

But anyone who knows me will tell you, once I commit to something, I’m like a dog with a bone. I was going to make this happen, come hell or high water! And if I didn’t get the job, it wouldn’t be for lack of trying. Within 24 hours of a strangely relaxed interview (including a last-minute request for an additional monologue in my American accent) over the internet with the incredibly astute Gordon Dougall, the fab Sally Clay and Sir Garry himself, I got an email offering me the gig! I left my job, sublet my apartment and shipped my beloved Hubbell off to my mother’s. Shit! I was heading to the UK for three months to do a new musical! I’m still pinching myself.

Whenever someone asks me to describe what it feels like to create a piece of theatre, I’m never sure how to it, except to say that theatre at its best is everything at once. It’s exhilarating, complicated, terrifying, frustrating, surprising, messy, dirty, compelling, painful, joyful, inspiring (not to worry fellow crips – not the brave and courageous, “aw bless” kind), exhausting, daring, but most of all, it’s just plain fun.

And at the risk of sounding like a talking head, great theatre illuminates the human condition by going for jugular – it hits us where we live and with a little luck and a lot of damn hard work, hopefully, entertains us as well.

Raspberry is all that – and more. So much more. I am proud and privileged to be working with this incredibly eclectic and talented band of wandering minstrels who are every bit as “vulnerable, mortal, imperfect…and very, very beautiful” as the characters they play. Oi Oi!!

Keywords: disability art,music