Writing by Molly Mckew
When Melbourne’s COVID-19 lockdown hit, Hannah Camilleri was about to launch her comedy festival show, Coming. After squeezing in a trial show before lockdown, Hannah realised that all was not lost and decided to make a web-series. Little Shits was born.
With the help of a City of Melbourne Grant, the 6-part series is about the interactions you have when living bumper to bumper with one another in a sharehouse – particularly relevant in the confines of lockdown. Hannah has lived in a bunch of sharehouses and is fascinated by the politics and the loaded interactions that happen when sharing domestic space.
“Interpersonal relationships are difficult, especially working relationships, but living with people could very well be the epitome of difficult,” she says. “Housemate relationships are unique; you know them more intimately than your friends but it’s doesn’t seem possible to discuss issues with them like you would a family member or a partner. It becomes a battle of who is more mature than who.”
Camilleri has always been interested in character comedy, and particularly in exploring underlying and unacknowledged power dynamics between characters. She grew up watching actors like Bette Midler and Whoopi Goldberg and became fascinated by authoritarian characters such as the Grand High Witch in The Witches or Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmatians. Her interest lies in “characters that are extravagant, strong and have pushed to be in a position of authority.” She enjoys finding these characters in real life observation too – people who “think they have everything worked out but they don’t. They present themselves as being above the commoners but in fact respect is lost immediately because of their blind spots.” In 2014, Camilleri started performing stand-up and sketch comedy at open mics around Melbourne, and in 2015 moved to France to attend Philippe Gaulier’s highly regarded theater and clowning academy. Returning with sharpened improv chops, she dove deeper into her passion for character study. Camilleri’s 2019 Melbourne Comedy Festival show featured characters ranging from a shouty PE teacher straight out of your suburban primary school to a female James Bond-esque character in a genre where women are rarely the leading role.
Little Shits started out as a play, performed in 2015 over three nights alongside Camilleri’s “very funny, costume designer sister”. When she began writing the show, Camilleri wanted to do something new with the play format, feeling that the plays she had come across recently were too lengthy and dry. “I wanted to write a scene with lots of dialogue – something you could read and have fun with immediately.” When she decided to turn Little Shits into a web-series, she was excited about the possibilities of film. Filming a show for the first time was a learning curve, different from theatre, where “anything and everything can change right up until the opening moment.”
Camilleri enlisted an all-star cast; friend and long-time collaborator Nat Harris, comedian Dave Quirk, and actor Jordan Prosser. She loved the ways in which the different actors played around with their delivery in the filming process. “It was a thrill to have ten people on set moving around and making it happen… I was able to see the performers shine and experience the different ways they would deliver the lines and moments.”
Camilleri, Harris, Quirk and Prosser make for excellent viewing; each actor charismatic and astute in their comedic timing and body language. Tensions between housemates are rendered painfully familiar as they cleverly bring to life the awkwardness and absurdities of interpersonal powerplay. At least while we are stuck with housemates or family under one roof in lockdown, we can thank our chosen deity that we are not this house.
Little Shits is being aired every two days and can be viewed on the series website.