Daily Review is proud to present actor Neil Pigot’s series of free, 60 minute podcasts in which he interviews artists from a range of disciplines about making art. In Episode Three, he talks to performers Maude Davey and David Pidd (pictured above). To listen, click this link: Making Art: Episode Three with Maude Davey and David Pidd (also available on iTunes).
I have a number of guilty pleasures and they run across a broad gamut. At the moment, I’m enjoying chocolate coated digestive biscuits dunked in milk. So delicious. And good for you. I am also happy to come out as a closet Formula One fan. Yes indeed, and perhaps as you’re reading this I’ll be sitting at home tuning in to the unfolding drama in Canada via the F1 app which I study with great intent during the race, keeping an eye on tyre degradation and sector times while cheering on my boy Dan as he tenaciously climbs his way through the field toward the chequered flag.
Now in case you missed it, Dan won the last outing in Monte Carlo under great duress but unfortunately he may have to wear a grid penalty this weekend for an unscheduled mechanical change. Which is grossly unfair in my opinion, but at least it raises the potential for an exciting race. I just hope Dan manages to avoid the Wall of Champions. (Follow the link to see famous racing car drivers hitting a wall at ridiculous speeds.)
Digestives of course are random guilty pleasures. I buy a packet now and then. Grand Prix are fortnightly and often past my bedtime. I do have a regular regular weekly weakness though and it’s The Two of Us, the article that appears like clockwork each Saturday in the Good Weekend. I’ve always loved it. It’s a quick read, you get a snapshot of how two interesting people met, find out a little about how they do what they do, how their particular relationship works. It’s insightful, can often be fun and to be honest I’ve always harboured a secret ambition to write it. What a gig.
So here’s my audition. It’s subtly different, I’ve gone with a slightly longer introduction and I’ve left out their ages. Small changes but enough I think to distinguish the piece and just to be sure we avoid any inter-publication rancour I’ve decided to call Daily Review’s version The Pair of Them. And this week’s pair are Maude Davey (pictured above) and David Pidd.
Maude and David first met at a music gig in Sydney in the mid 1980s. Maude had just graduated from the acting school at the Victorian College of the Arts and David was about to start there. It was brief and they showed no obvious interest in each other beyond a casual curiosity.
Maude went back to Melbourne and did what many talented young performers do; she made her own work. Together with her twin sister Anni and Karen Hatfield and Jane Bayly, she formed the highly successful theatre/ music/a cappella group Crying in Public Places which toured to great acclaim nationally and internationally for much of the ’90s.
In the noughties, she collaborated with Finucane and Smith and was one of the core performers in the shows The Burlesque Hour and Glory Box (pictured below). It was a partnership that would last for over a decade with sell out shows here and overseas. Forever on the go, she is about to embark on an all new season of Retrofuturismus, the unnervingly artful, dystopian vaudeville-meets-cabaret-meets-burlesque show she conceived with Anni.
David graduated from VCA in 1989 and while his early career was busy, it would be fair to say that it began in a more low key way. In the early ’90s he worked consistently in his home state of Tasmania with Richard Davey and Zootango, the former State Theatre Company of Tasmania. Richard, as it turns out, was Maude’s uncle. David’s collaboration with him was completely coincidental.
A multi-talented actor, musician, singer and theatre maker, David has worked as a street performer, toured here and overseas with companies like Polyglot and Patch, spent time as the master of ceremonies at festivals like The Falls and performed as a storyteller in National Parks and historical sites around the country. At the moment he’s planning a fire show for the Village Winter Festival that will take place at Newstead Racecourse near Castlemaine in Central Victoria late June.
Together they have two children, Leo, 11 and Alice, 18. In 2016, David and Maude produced their second major collaboration The Crow Family, a modern musical parable that payed homage to the traditional roving storyteller. An allegorical tale of love, family life and human Alice and Leo joined them on stage in a show in which, among other things, they baked a cake on stage.
THE PAIR OF THEM
We did a creative development adapting Judy Horacek’s cartoons. He had great big eyes and a great big heart. We’d met before. My sister was living in Sydney working for a company called Death Defying Theatre. Ian Pidd and Sue Giles lived in Sydney. Anni had met Ian and Sue. You know. Community theatre. I went up one year and we went to see a band called Lunar Circus. 1984. It was David’s friends’ band so he was there. I knew of them. The Pidds.
I came down to Tasmania and saw A Bright and Crimson Flower. The show he was doing for my uncle and it was weird. You know, there was this young, new relationship and I took a seat next to this couple. And we started chatting and I said “Oh. Do you somebody in the cast? They said “We do actually. Our son David Pidd.” And I went “Oh my God. I’m Maude.” I’d actually sat next to his parents.
We did work together. I wrote a rock and roll musical with Marcia Ferguson called Infectious. The central idea was that money was a virus controlling the human population. A very successful virus that didn’t kill its host too quickly. Still quite a sound idea and David was in that. Complete nepotism.
Funny working together in that situation. You know you have a lot of relationships you’re dealing with independent of your partnership. You have to have very separate relationships. Parallax Island was easier because it was just him and me. And we made a pact. It had to be joyful and if it wasn’t joyful we had to stop. I got a little frustrated with that. I’d start getting shitty and he’d say, ‘okay we’re stopping now’, and I’d go ‘grrrr’.
He’s one of those actors who prefers performing to rehearsing. He’s doesn’t pull it all and leave you there going ‘Oh my God. Is he ever going to get it together?’ It’s always there but you put it in front of an audience and it really sings. It’s all there and it gets better and better. It’s different when we’re just working together. I think David gets a little bit overwhelmed in larger shows with managing all the people and the relationships and the power plays.
It’s really fun developing a show together. Little stupid jokes take hold. He has a lot of those. One of the first things I saw him do was with his brother Ian and his wife Sue. They had a company called Shaken and Suspicious and they did these excerpts, little sketch things. I don’t know where it was. I felt like we were in a library and they got up. Just his precise physical comedy which is really quite stupid. I always feel I can say to him, right, you’ve got a minute and a half. Do some stupid gags. And he does. And they’re great.
When we work together I feel I can relax and do less. Parallax Island was the first show where I felt I could do less than I was used to doing. You know how getting older as a performer or maybe getting more experience, the development is from thinking you have to do so much. To be this character. I’ve got to find a body and a voice and a costume. People read you easier when you do less. David lets me do that.
There’s something about performing without that fear of measuring yourself against another. Am I going to disappoint this person, is this person going to disappoint me? That weird stuff that goes on when you’re making a relationship as well as making a show. Will it last beyond the show? When you’re just making a show and not a relationship as well it’s just so much easier.
We struggle for time together. Terribly. Sometimes it gets that we forget how to be together. I think it can be like that for a lot of people with young families. We try to go out. We’re going to see my students together in A Chorus Line next week. I said do you want to come and David said, ‘Do I really want to see your students in A Chorus Line?’ But, he’s coming because it’s a chance for us to be together. I sometimes wonder what it’s going to be like when Leo is more independent and we have nights at home alone. Gosh. What will we do? Watch Netflix?
I graduated from VCA and was out and about. I’d been out for a couple of years and I got a phone call from Maude Davey. Maude’s real diligent. She goes to all the graduations, she’s looking at all the folk coming out. And I was one of those folk. Anyway about two years after I graduated I got this phone call.
Would I like to be part of a creative development? Yes. It was a natural response in the early days. Just say yes and then go ‘Oh what is it?’ Judy Horacek had a book, a series of cartoons called Unrequited Love. They’d got some money, with Maude co-directing, Judy was going to be in the room, to see if this book had a show in it. So we spent a week on the subject of unrequited love. We didn’t get together straight away but it wasn’t long after.
I’d met her sister Anni in Sydney years earlier and I met Maude there with Anni. They came to a gig I was doing in a pub so we sort of knew about each other. So we started going out. If we were both in town Maude would either be at my place or I’d be at hers. OMG. She was so alive it was terrifying. Passionate. We often say to each other how simple it is. That said we didn’t actually start living together until a month before Alice was born. That was 2000.
We thought we were pregnant earlier but we weren’t. And we were both disappointed. Are you disappointed? Yeah. Me too. So we decided to go for it. I’ve described having a child as…coming through a wormhole. It was almost as if I had been walking through my life backwards and having Alice made me turn around and start walking forwards. And then a love like I’d never…wow the love of your own child.
That’s when we made Parallax Island. I think we’d been in shows together there was nothing in the way. There was nothing stopping us it was just timing. It was great. She has endless energy. Strength and weakness for Maude. Sometimes she gets to the end of it and she doesn’t crash out there, she crashes here. An absolute power source and a disciplined brain. Ordering ideas or mashing together ideas. Quick to come up with things to try on the floor. And she has great courage and you can’t do courage without great vulnerability. So.
She gives me courage to write and to make things. She validates my silly ideas and makes me a good person to have in the room. That’s one of the things I loved about the Crow Family.
In a parallel universe we’d take that show on the road for a couple of years. Go to Edinburgh. I’ve got family in Britain. See the world with the kids. Be gypsies. It brings us together. One of the things we struggle with is time together. We have to really work to grab this two hours that two hours. When we’re both working, you know yourself. The hours are long. We’ve got soccer and music and … It’s the little things that take up time. Too much. Top up your Myki. This decision. That decision. They’re only little decisions but I wouldn’t mind uncluttering that.
But The Crow Family was great. We were all together. For a month. That was it. That was our family time together in this strange life we’re living.
Retrofuturismus – Brave World is at 45 Downstairs in Melbourne from June 21
The Village Winter Festival Fire Show is at Newstead Racecourse, Castlemaine on June 23