Disney fans be delighted, a chat with Laura Desmond

South Australian Laura Desmond of Big Mood made her debut at the Adelaide Fringe in 2017. Desmond knows the bare necessities of entertainment and will partner with Benjamin Maio Mackay, of Preachrs Podcast OnLine and OnScreen, to sing a supercalifragilistic selection of Disney’s greatest hits in their show Disney Delights.

Laura Desmond | photo by Dave Desmond

I interviewed Desmond one Sunday afternoon at a local pub. She is down to earth, passionate about what she does, and equipped with stories and experiences that make her shows both relatable and thought-provoking. Singing, producing, acting, and editorial work are all part of her entertainment briefcase as she travels from Adelaide to Edinburgh and cities in between. Candidly, yet thoughtfully, Desmond tells me about the fun she sees in Disney, and gives insight into the culture of the arts scene in Adelaide. 

The Arts in Adelaide

Adelaide is the only UNESCO City of Music in Australia, something it should be proud of. As we chat, Desmond lists a number of venues that support live music and local bands in Adelaide – Lion Hotel, Exeter, and the Lion Arts Factory. She then reflects on the last few years of Adelaide’s arts scene, “I think Adelaide is very lucky in that it has quite a thriving music scene in particular outside of Fringe festival.”

However, she is concerned about the Adelaide Fringe’s shortage of affordable, entry-level performing venues for debut artists. She knows a number of performers who started off in smaller venues that no longer exist, but hopes this will change again in coming years.

“If the Fringe doesn’t have those venues to support those experimental pieces coming through, then I think that’s a real shame for the culture and that’s across all genres.”

Disney Song Selections

image credit: Stephanie Mitchell

Song selections for the show started with a Spotify playlist tweaked with Desmond and Mackay’s favourite songs.  

“I’ve always been a huge fan of Disney,” Desmond says. Her favourite Disney movie is The Lion King, and her favourite Disney song is a thirty second piece Aladdin sings on his way home with Abu.

In contrast to Desmond’s more sombre offerings of autobiographical theatre, Disney Delights is fun. 

“We’ve got some real classics,” Desmond says. “Stuff from the Jungle Book, then we’ve got some newer stuff from Frozen, from the new Mary Poppins movie, things like that, so we’re incredibly excited about it.”

“We had a look at what sort of a spread we had between the older films and newer films, animated, and live actions and we’ve tried to just have a massive representation of the different eras of Disney.”

Disney fans are invited to let it go and join in during this hakuna matata event. Previously a choirmaster at her university, Desmond misses singing in big groups. “I think there’s a real joy in people singing together,” she says.

“Our aim is to have a show that is too big for the space that it’s in. So we’re hoping that overall the show just feels big. We hope that we do get some people singing along.”

Festival Self-Care

Stephanie Mitchell and Laura Desmond | image supplied

Desmond and Big Mood co-founder Stephanie Mitchell are seasoned festival goers familiar with the pressures of performing. They both know artists who have mental health issues. 

Lack of scheduled meals and sleep, anxiety, the comedown once the festival ends, and inevitable dispersion of performer friends are some of the contributing factors Desmond lists. In Edinburgh last year, she was encouraged by a sixteen page booklet with tips for self-care at the Fringe. 

“There’s a huge emotional toll doing a Fringe.”

– Laura Desmond

“As a performer or as a worker, no matter what you are doing at the Fringe, you do just need to take a second to think about it and be like ‘What we’re doing is a bit crazy. Let’s just do anything we can to make sure that we come out of it alright.’”

Desmond and Mitchell have reworked the idea into a thirty-two page booklet with Adelaide-based resources and hotlines such as Beyond Blue and Safe Work SA, sexual health clinics, tips on travel options and how to get home at night. With the help of sponsors and their GoFundMe campaign,  Big Mood printed about six thousand copies of the booklet and distributed them to venues in dressing rooms, offices, and backstage.

After another half hour chatting about life experiences, languages and upcoming opportunities, it is time for Desmond to go to work. She’s a hard worker with a contemplative mind and ‘Be Our Guest’ attitude. The Fringe is “almost there”, and we look forward to singing along with those Disney classics!

Disney Delights will be performed at the James Alexander Room at Mercure Grosvenor Hotel, Adelaide on 20 and 21 February 2021, and the Hall at Murray Bridge Town Hall on 27 February 2021.

Editor’s note: this profile feature was originally published on 5 February 2020. Disney Delights will have its return season in 2021 and all event links and details have been updated accordingly.

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