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News - 19th of June 2023

In PICA’s new show Catastrophes it takes a village, or at least a friend

In PICA's new show Catastrophes it takes a village, or at least a friend

In Catastrophes Renée Newman and Ella Hetherington are brutally honest friends juggling imminent global collapse, parenthood and failing bodies as part of the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts’ (PICA) Djilba/Kambarang season program.

The leading Boorloo (Perth)-based theatre makers – who are also close friends – spent over five years creating Catastrophes. The resulting performance sees the audience invited into their shame-free friendship as they share intimate and often excruciating truths across one chaotic, yet hopeful, hour of confessions.

Curated from the pair’s text messages and conversations, Catastrophes reminds us that though the world may be ending, we are not alone.

Set beneath the soft, omniscient folds of the billowing, cloud-like set and grounded by a perimeter of chairs on loan from family and friends, Catastrophes is an absurdist archive of the pair’s friendship as they became first-time mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a soul-bearing tale – as funny as it is poignant.

Renée Newman and Ella Hetherington said: ‘We are incredibly privileged. That privilege weighs on us when faced with a seemingly perpetual shitstorm of myriad global crises. How do we grapple with all of this, especially when we are responsible for young children?’

‘Largely composed of 4am text messages and some truly humiliating stories, we have come to realise that truth-telling, no matter how risky, and especially if you do it with a best mate, is actually an act of self-care.’

PICA’s Producer Ariane Katscherian said: ‘PICA’s delighted to present Catastrophes, having commissioned the work and supported its development since 2018.’

‘We’re dedicated to working with artists who are innovators and change-makers, who make powerful work that provokes connection and conversation. Renée and Ella do this – their latest work is an often hilarious, heart-warming account of how friendship can take you through even the most challenging of catastrophes.’

Catastrophes runs 16 to 26 August with tickets on sale now from

Media Contact & Images

Publicist Tracy Routledge | | +61 412 223 221

Performance Dates

Catastrophes – Renée Newman & Ella Hetherington
PICA Performance Space
16–26 August 2023
60 minutes, no interval
Tickets $25–35

Artist Biographies

Creative Team

Co-Creators & Performers: Ella Hetherington & Renée Newman
Scenography: Mark Haslam
Sound Design: Ben Collins
Mentors: Emma Fishwick & Andrew Sutherland

About the Artists

Dr Renée Newman has been an educator, actor, writer, director and producer for nearly 20 years. Her performance interests/credits include: producer and performer, Those who fall in love like anchors dropped upon the ocean floor, 2014, 2015, 2016; Sleeping Beauty, 2016; director, Public Space, 2013; creator, producer, performer, director and writer, Virgie, 2011, 2012; and Seeking Basic Needs and Other Tales of Excess in 2018. She is a lecturer, researcher, research supervisor for WAAPA at ECU in Western Australia. She has published with Educational Philosophy Theory, Sustainability, Platform and Performance Research and has a chapter in The Routledge Companion to Theatre and Politics (2019).

Ella Hetherington is a multidisciplinary theatre maker, facilitator and producer based in Walyalup (Fremantle) WA. As an actor, devisor and collaborator she has worked with WA companies; Black Swan State Theatre Company, Barking Gecko Theatre Company, Peth Theatre Company, The Last Great Hunt, Sensorium, aMoment, Steamworks, littleY, Emma Fishwick, Renegade Productions, Encounter and kdm Industries. Nationally she has performed and created works with Force Majeure, ERTH, Patch, Legs on Wall and the Sydney Opera House. International companies include La Fura Del Baus, Frantic Assembly and Look Right Look Left. Her work has toured throughout Europe, Canada nationally and throughout regional WA with commissions from WASO, WA Maritime Museum and Black Swan State Theatre Company. She has built and lead large-scale performance projects in Kununurra, Jurien Bay, Christmas Island and with DADAA. Most recently she has been Associate Director on ERTH’s Boodjar, Associate Producer for Performing Lines’ Kolyang, Rehearsal Director for Sensorium’s Perth Festival premiere Wonderbox, and her work Golden Hour is currently in development (with the support of Performing Lines) which will premiere in 2025. Hetherington is a casual lecturer in devising at WAAPA, a teaching artist for BSSTC and a Blue Room Theatre board member.

Thank You to Our Supporters

Catastrophes is commissioned by PICA and has been supported by the WA Government through the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries and its Theatre Development Initiative and PICA’s Art Commissioners.

Running from August to September, Djilba is the Noongar season of growth and conception, marked by the blooming of wildflowers and cold, clear days. From October till November, Kambarang arrives and with it the return of hot weather.

Image: Renée Newman and Ella Hetherington, Catastrophes, creative development, 2022, photo: Emma Fishwick