Louisa Mignone's acting career has taken her to Los Angeles, but the creative force of her connection to isthisyours? - the theatre company she co-founded in university - keeps drawing her home to Adelaide, and this time its for the world premiere of a major new work.
Louisa Mignone brings Angelique to Adelaide
By almost all measures, Adelaide-born Louisa Mignone’s acting career is a shining success.
More than a decade since graduating from the Flinders University Drama Centre, she is working between Los Angeles and Australia and has racked up credits across stage, small screen, and big screen that include feature-length films like Infini, work with Bell Shakespeare Company, and multiple seasons appearing on the inimitable Rake.
But for Louisa, while there are many great roles, there’s also some that give her pause.
“This year, auditioning for Marvel again – it was for a female superhero whose clothes burn off when she’s angry,” she says. “I literally had to perform my clothes burning off when I was angry.
“It gets to a point where you go, unless it’s really challenging me or the audience to actually look at the world around you, then it’s hard to see why it’s being done.”
To redress this concern Louisa has – for years – been venturing into the creation of her own work. Before moving over to acting, she initially enrolled in the film making course at Flinders, and this urge to conceive of and develop deeper art has remained with her.
Recently, she co-wrote, starred in, and co-directed a short film of her own – Latte e Miele. But her longest standing creative outlet has been theatre company isthisyours?, which she co-founded with four of her Flinders classmates.
While Louisa and her fellow company members Tessa Leong, Jude Henshall, Nadia Rossi, and Ellen Steele all have careers that have taken them interstate and internationally, the ensemble makes a point of regularly coming back together in South Australia to collaborate.
“It’s amazing because half of us moved to Sydney or to Melbourne, but we would always know that come Christmas time – because four out of five of us have family here – we’d be here, so we would always go to a shack for a week and bring anything that had inspired us this year,” says Louisa.
“We just love each other so much and we love each other’s ideas and we make each other laugh a lot, and it’s just that idea of constantly surprising each other with ideas and creation.
“I think we challenge each other enough creatively.”
The company’s latest work, Angelique – which will have its world premiere next week at Her Majesty’s Theatre – is the result of a week-long shack session from about four years ago.
At that time, Louisa and the other company members talked a lot about group think and mob mentality – two ideas that lie at the heart of Angelique. Playwright Duncan Graham has worked with isthisyours? to develop those concepts into the story of a teenager whose sister has disappeared, whose parents are behaving strangely, and who is haunted by a talking bird.
Utilising humour as a counter to the darkness, Angelique also makes great use of Her Majesty’s Theatre with an approach to theatre making that is not bound to the normal structures of stage-faces-audience, but instead capitalises more broadly on the venue’s potential with a design by Jonathon Oxlade.
“I don’t think audiences here have experienced this kind of show before – I definitely haven’t, in my years of performing in and seeing things, I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it,” says Louisa.
Making shows like Angelique, where creative and production control lies in her hands and the hands of those she trusts, is not just important to Louisa because of the creative satisfaction it brings her.
It also allows her to tackle a lack of diversity on screen and on stage – something she sees as a major problem in the Australian arts community.
“We should just be putting good stuff out there, because we’re a laughing stock if all we’re putting out is this white-washed vision, and if everyone just sees Summer Bay as a vision of Australia,” she says.
“And that’s why I’m writing more at the moment and writing more of my own family stories and trying to include diverse faces in it, because we can’t just sit by.”