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Arch Enemies and Other Close Acquaintances

19 January, 2007

New York City comes to the Fringe
in ‘Arch Enemies and Other Close Acquaintances’

By Olivia Bryant, directed by Ellie Smith and Tom Beauchamp.
15 – 19 February 2007 at Bats Theatre

New York – the place of infinite possibilities and very often impossibilities and a place to collect stories that have to be told. Stories that most people would expect to find at the movies or in the imagination. Arch Enemies and Other Close Acquaintances is a solo show that tells some of the stories and conversations collected by Olivia Bryant during her five years living on Manhattan Island. “These stories have been brewing inside me for up to seven years. It’s a relief to finally get them out,” she says.

Olivia moved to New York in 1998 to attend a theatre school. After two years she was hooked and stayed on another three years working in numerous ‘between roles/actor jobs’ such as furniture removal, selling apples, dressing up as a pickle and of course waitressing. Most of her stories were collected from talking to eccentric clientele such as the woman who would take about 25 dietary supplements with her meal to cure neuroses (they weren’t working), the extremely fussy eaters and the overly demanding ones. “Every table had the potential to be an adventure,” says Olivia. “I even got tickets to Armani’s first runway show and after-party in New York through serving a table of fashionistas one night.”

But it wasn’t all good. In fact it mostly wasn’t good. At the time it was understandably degrading for Olivia, then in her early 20s, but she didn’t realise that it would give her plenty of experiences to write a play about. “I’ve combined many of the stories into one. So instead of many restaurants, I do different jobs in one restaurant such as running coats, answering phones and waiting tables. In the play, the chef is unable to fire me because he is being bribed by my landlord to keep me on.”

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In reality her landlord was a Polish woman who’s husband was in the mafia and was spending time in prison for ordering the death of a tenant. Within this building, Olivia lived in a walk-in closet for many months. “It belonged to a neurotic, washed up singer who needed some extra cash. I paid $US650 per month to live in a closet with no windows. I was desperate.” She adds: “My neighbour was addicted to collecting things off the street. Her apartment looked like the inside of a rubbish dump. Her floor was built up so she could store all her books under planks. She even had a map to locate her books.”

Arch Enemies and Other Close Acquaintances is a high energy roller coaster ride that mixes physical theatre with fast character changes and comedy.


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