Sophia Simmons, writer and performer, will debut her award winning one-woman show Gravity Guts at the Adelaide Fringe under the direction of Milly Cooper. Simmons spoke to Jordan Bell in the lead-up to opening night.

Fresh off the back of winning the 2018 Pioneer Playwright Award in Sydney, Simmons and Cooper are teaming up to bring this witty and playful show to Adelaide. Closely based on Sophia’s life experience, Gravity Guts tells the story of a young girl who dreams of being an astronaut, but is struggling to stand up to her father who is battling an alcohol addiction. 

Simmons says she wrote the show as a way of learning more about herself…
I was inspired to write this piece because I noticed that every idea I had was about space or science fiction in some way and I thought there must be something in that. After digging a little deeper I realised that there were some interesting parallels between my love of space and my relationship with my dad. Originally the father narrative was less prominent in the story and it was more about space facts, but the feedback was that the human story was the most interesting part. That kind of gave me permission to get a bit more personal. I played with some stuff I found in old diaries and wrote a lot from memory. Although it’s based closely on my experiences it’s a more heightened version of me, so it feels like a safe place to play in.

So did Simmons herself want to be an astronaut as a child?
I did want to be an astronaut. I also wanted to be a witch and a mermaid. I suppose the path was always leading to performer one way or another. I gave up on the other dreams pretty quickly, but I held onto the astronaut dream until about Year 10 maths when I had the harsh awakening numbers were not my strength.

Words were, though, it seems. Simmons has deep roots in the youth theatre scene in Adelaide, having been involved with Urban Myth Theatre from age 14 before attending drama school as a young adult, where she wrote her first play.
I began writing during my first year of studies, and with some encouragement from a lecturer I wrote my first play. I won a playwright award for the piece, which blew my mind at the time because I had very little confidence in the value of my own voice. It gave me the push I needed to keep writing and since then I’ve sought out any opportunity to keep pushing myself and experimenting with both writing and performing.

Simmons has deepened her skill as a playwright recently following her completion a Masters in Writing for Performance at the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne.

She talks about reaching for your dreams…
Gravity Guts is definitely a story about someone whose dream is slightly out of touch with the reality she is living in. Her dream of looking out to space is in many ways a method of distracting herself from what is happening in her life on Earth. She has an incredible passion and imagination so you almost feel like she could do it, but she’s also self-aware in that a part of her knows that she’s holding herself back.” The sixty minute show will feature cameos from Simmons’ idol Sigourney Weaver, the Alien from Aliens, and a bunch of interesting facts about space you have never heard before. Simmons’ performance is a playful blend of creative nonfiction, stand up and storytelling.

Suitable for adolescents and adults, Simmons hopes her work will inspire or reinforce a love of science in her audience.
That is one of my biggest hopes in general. I feel like the excitement of space travel is moving out of public consciousness a bit. We have so much technology available to us now and are capable of some pretty incredible things. We need to re-inspire the new generation again. Through my research for the show, I found so many incredible facts. I wish I could have put them all in but it’s impossible to include them all. I hope that people leave having learned at least one new thing, or at the very least with a tiny spark of curiosity for the great wondrous universe around us.

Gravity Guts is a love letter to space, an anthem for anyone who’s ever wanted to reach for the stars but struggles with their times tables, a rallying cry for anyone who loves sci-fi but never saw themselves as the hero.

Gravity Guts offers the Saturday matinee session as a Relaxed Performance – Relaxed Performances are open to anyone, however, they have been specifically designed to create a safe and welcoming environment for patrons with a learning disability, and/or sensory and communication difficulties, or anyone who would benefit from a more sensory-reduced environment.

Interview by Jordan Bell

You can see Gravity Guts at the Tandanya Arts Cafe at Live From Tandanya, from Weds March 6th to Sunday March 10th, at 6:15pm, with a Relaxed Performance matinee on Saturday March 9th at 2:15pm. Tickets:Full $25, Concession $18. Tickets from Fringe Tix.