Connecting through loneliness

Xavier McGettigan & Stacey Carmichael. (Ivan Kemp) 400500_06

Matt Hewson

Sometimes, great things come from asking simple questions.

Project Connect Ensemble’s physical theatre work a/lone has been conceived, developed, performed at Edinburgh Fringe and put on the VCE Drama playlist in less than two years, all thanks to two questions, according to the production’s director and co-developer Janine McKenzie.

“(Performers) Stacey (Carmichael), Xavier (McGettigan) and I got together in December of 2022 as said, do we want to make something? What do we want to make?” McKenzie said.

“I said, I’m interested in loneliness and they said, yep, we’re interested in that too. On the basis of that, Stacey applied for a small grant from the Geelong Arts Centre (GAC) that was about generating new work, getting something off the ground from scratch.

“We had a week (developing the idea) at GAC in January, from Monday to Friday. We were showing it Friday night; the first performance was five days after we started it.”

From the get-go, a/lone struck a chord. Further funding flowed on the strength of the ensemble’s initial idea, the work was offered a spot at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and development began in earnest.

McKenzie said that development focused on the time and space specifications the work needed to fit within at Edinburgh.

“It was around the 50, 55 minute mark; every space we rehearsed in, we marked out the 7 metres by 3 metres, the space we were going to work in in Edinburgh,” she said.

“We used the lights and technology we knew we would have in that space. What we presented in May (2023 at GAC) was very much the work we were taking to Edinburgh for a particular place and time slot.”

A blend of physical and verbatim theatre, with a hint of the absurd, a/lone features a series of vignettes exploring various aspects of loneliness, which, if not always a universal experience, certainly is in a post-pandemic world.

Word of the work’s acceptance onto the VCE drama list in August last year shortly after the successful run in Edinburgh kicked off another round of development.

This time the ensemble focused on expansion – of performers, of content, of media – and a cohesive aesthetic encompassing set design, promotional material and costuming.

McKenzie said the 2024 iteration of a/lone included a broader range of stories “that hopefully more people could relate to, and people could relate to more”.

“One of the key things has always been a sense of (the audience) seeing themselves in the stories,” she said.

“We wanted to find ways of discussing loneliness and social isolation that didn’t invite judgement or criticism… or shame, or blame. That it would start conversations which would lift the topic of loneliness… into a place where it was something that connected us.

“And maybe that kind of connection, that kind of conversation would start to ease some of the difficulties and the pain around loneliness.”

a/lone is at the Potato Shed for four shows over April 23 and 24. Visit for more information.