What do you get when you mix an indoor playground, struggling creatives and a touch of Broadway? Get ready to lose yourself in love as The Candle Wasters' brand new lesbian rom-com musical mashup, Happy Playland, blasts onto your laptop screens. We sat down with Minnie for a coffee, one of the creatives of The Candle Wasters, as she gives us the scoop on what Happy Playland is really all about.
Thanks for coming to have a chat with us Minnie. Before we crack on, who are The Candle Wasters and what do you do?
So I am one of five creatives of The Candle Wasters. In the past we've done three other series which makes Happy Playland our fourth and it's our first one that's not a Shakespeare adaptation. So it's the first one thats a wholly original work. We are four young women (and a token dude) who create fierce, funny, feminist web series. We had used Shakespeare because we watched a series called the Lizzie Bennett Diaries, which is an adaptation of Pride & Prejudice but told through vlogs and we were like "Wow! That seems really easy, and a lot of people will try and do that, why don't we? What would we adapt? Probably Shakespeare. What Shakespeare do we like? Much Ado About Nothing." So we made Much Ado About Nothing into a vlog series (Nothing Much To Do).
With your series in the past being adaptations of Shakespeare, it's a pretty bold move to bring an original idea to life. Why did you choose Happy Playland?
The reason we went for Happy Playland of all of the ideas we had floating around is because in our second series we sort of made a secret musical — because the characters were vlogging, they had to sing in character and even though the songs they were singing were relevant to the emotions that they were feeling, it wasn't a proper musical. I think it's because we had a fascination with musicals that it was natural for us to go "Oh, let's try making an actual musical and see how that goes". So we pursued that idea. We also had background lesbians in our series, where their stories had not been at the forefront of our work so we thought let's bring our women who love women to the forefront.
Where did the idea of filming in a playground come from?
We were initially going to make it like a school production and it was gonna be "behind the scenes" of the school production and they're putting on a real musical. We must have gone from that to something still child related but we wanted to have all the characters and then we just though "a playground sounds funny".
Why was it important to you to put queer characters in the spotlight?
We feel that is is important to show minorities in any way that we can, and as four of us are women creating the content and three out of the five of us are queer, in whatever sense, it is important on a personal level and morally as we hadn't seen enough of it and we wanted to put it out there. We had sort of had our gay boys and our bi boys and lots of pan women but nothing that had just been lesbians. They were the least represented in our minds.
Happy Playland, as well as your other series, explore issues that are often treated as "taboo" in mainstream shows and media — what motivated you to bring these issues front and centre?
In Bright Summer Night, our main character was gender fluid and dealing with depression and we had another character called Lena who had a form of anxiety that we felt was much akin to what we feel. As she was the star of only one episode we wanted to have a character who through the whole series was dealing with anxiety as it's something that a lot of us deal with as well. Mental health is important and is a good thing to normalise. In Lovely Little Losers (second series), we had a range of characters and with one of the main characters, a lot of people watching told us "that character has anxiety" and we were just like "no, that's just how people are, everyone lives life like that!" We realised afterwards that, after looking back at it, that we were learning we had anxiety through that character. So it became important for us to finally have a character that talked about their anxiety.
There is definitely a Wellington vibe coming from the show. How did you find casting and filming in Wellington?
We like to think of Wellington as a theatre city and even though it's not as multicultural as Auckland, because it's very white, we still wanted to cast as diverse as we could from the people around us. So the star of the show is ethnically Maori and Dutch and is gay herself so we were like "cool, let's cast you", and she's also an actress and as the main character is a struggling actress, it was perfect.
We were really lucky because we were able to go along to Avalon Studios and film a bit in there. Something that we had conceptually thought of was that at times while dealing with her anxiety, Billie would go into her head and would see what was going on with her mentally while on the outside she was just standing there, a bit shocked — like she was caught in it. We were able to use Studio Eleven, which is just a massive big room and create an empty space in there, which we put Billie in the centre and just black around her.
Anything new in the pipeline?
So the second series that we received funding for is called Tragicomic which is another web series inspired by Hamlet. We've made Hamlet a young girl coming of age and we're exploring depression through it and bringing in young teens ho are also dealing with big mental health issues.
Binge the entire season of The Candle Wasters' Happy Playland over here.