Adhocracy – In Conversation with Roman Berry

Roman Berry will be bringing his solo performance work Not Very Berry to Waterside for Adhocracy 2023. We caught up with him to discuss memories, creativity, and much more.

Firstly, tell us about Not Very Berry – what’s the core concept of the project and how did you conceive it?

The idea for Not Very Berry was conceived as a response to have more diverse narratives, that platforms the intersection of culture, identity, and personal growth. The concept emerged from the desire to shed light on my personal challenges, my journey of self-discovery, growing up and living in Australia, especially coming out as a Filipino gay man, in Adelaide. I got very excited when the expression of interest from Vitalstatistix on Adhocracy was posted, as I have been sitting on this idea since the middle of the pandemic, and this initiative prompted me to take action.

Part of the process will be retracing personal odyssey, capturing struggle and triumphs, walking down memory lane through images, and focusing on pivotal moments, to ignite a spark towards a narrative, structure, and form towards my first ever solo ‘hybrid’ performance.

This project very specifically utilises a Filipino folk dance called ‘Tinikling’ as part of its process. What led to your fascination with this practice, and how have you adapted it for the work?

I’m fascinated of the rhythmic and vibrant movements of TINIKLING. This is a traditional Filipino folk dance, that uses two bamboo poles tapping and beating on the ground, with dancers stepping in, hopping, jumping and turning in between them, as they dance gracefully. It requires enormous concentration to do the movement. These movements are integral to the development of Not Very Berry. I’m utilising them as tools, powerful metaphors, symbolising the challenges of life, weaving through complexities of identity, acceptance, and cultural integration. Through this lens, Tinikling dance becomes an important backdrop to the story of self-discovery, steering a fusion of cultures, while finding oneself amidst the diaspora.

You refer to the work as ‘semi-autobiographical’. What is the intersection between fiction and biography here?

I’ve coined it ‘semi-autobiographical’ because, in a way, Not Very Berry is a work that is inspired by real-life experiences. Part of the challenge of the development is to find ways to introduce and merge fictional elements. The intersection between fiction and biography lies in the fact that, while the core themes, emotions, and some events in the story might draw from my own life and experiences, there’s also room for creative imagination and narrative exploration. And that’s why I’m so thankful for programs like Vitalstatistix’s Adhocracy, because it champions creatives, theatre makers and artists to experiment, to make mistakes, to test and collaborate. The semi-autobiographical approach of the work helps me to navigate the delicate balance between personal authenticity and creative storytelling. Blurring the lines between fact and fiction and letting the creative process to grow.

Where does Not Very Berry go after Adhocracy?

Having had a few days of researching, collecting images, anecdotes from friends and family, I am hoping to get Not Very Berry developed further by engaging the Filipino Australian community more. From the process so far, I have had a lot of further provocation to explore within the context of balancing cultural stigmas and biases, of being part of the LGBTQI family, within the Filipino Australian community. Hoping to also have other creatives and collaborators to further craft a narrative, structure and form, as mentioned earlier, towards the first ever solo ‘hybrid’ performance. Hoping to then take to festivals, independent theatres ands regional theatres.

Anything else audiences should know?

In the intimate presentation and sharing of my discoveries and findings from the development, I would really appreciate people’s feedback on the process. There will also be a chance to participate and try the Tinikling Dance.

Find out more about Not Very Berry at the Adhocracy Website.