“I always think of that Lorde song … ‘we live in cities you’ll never see onscreen’,” says filmmaker Sophie Hyde.
It might be written about Auckland but it could be said of Adelaide. Sure, South Australia has formed the backdrop of classic Aussie films such as Breaker Morant, Picnic at Hanging Rock and Wolf Creek, but it’s often “standing in for other things,” says Hyde. And it’s almost always limited to the rugged rural landscape.
Away from the harsh outback, and the glamour and grit of big-city streetscapes, the Closer Productions director is sitting in a quiet teahouse in Adelaide on a weekday afternoon. It’s not the sort of scene you’ll see on the screen. Until now.
“When you call something Fucking Adelaide … it’s allowed to be here,” Hyde says. Her tenderly titled comedy series premieres at Adelaide Film Festival this week before streaming on ABC iView. It follows three siblings – played by Brendan Maclean, Tilda Cobham-Hervey and Kate Box – who reunite in Adelaide when their mum decides to pack up and sell the family home. And if the name didn’t already give it away, the South Australian setting is front and centre.
“It was originally called Home,” says Hyde. “So it didn’t matter where it was set. And when we turned it into Fucking Adelaide, it [became] cleaner and clearer to us what the show was about.”
Rather than act as an anonymous, universal backdrop, the city is a key part of the storytelling. And Adelaide references abound. Local viewers will recognise The Grace Emily Hotel and Pollen 185, and share a knowing wink to talk of our semi-newfound laneway culture (“Have you been to Peel Street? It’s just like Melbourne,” suggests Cobham-Hervey’s character, Kitty).
It’s self-deprecating and at times – gasp – derisive, but it’s refreshingly familiar. “[The title] is a reference to [that common response] ‘Ugh, fucking Adelaide’ when you keep running into the same people or the coincidence that goes on – that small town-ness,” says Hyde.
Adelaide’s two degrees of separation is given a nod through Kitty, who avoids learning the names of her sexual partners lest she discover an inevitable association.
“Some people’s immediate response is, ‘so you’re bagging on Adelaide?’ which I think is funny as a response,” says Hyde. “There’s this thing with Adelaide where we feel we have to say only nice things about it or we’re being really mean. But it’s like, of course it’s a brilliant place to live and work but there are things that are kind of crap about it too.
“Like the characters in the show, there are reasons that people leave a place like this and there are reasons to stay. For us, Adelaide stands in for the idea of family and of home … [things] that can be really positive, but also really limiting.”
True to Adelaide, several connections link the cast and crew. Cobham-Hervey worked with Hyde on her highly acclaimed feature film 52 Tuesdays. “I wanted to make something else with her,” says Hyde. “She’s really funny and she never gets given comedy roles – she’s always very serious. We also wanted Kate Box, who works in a lot of TV and theatre. She and I grew up together [fucking Adelaide – Ed.] and we always wanted to do something together.
“Then Audrey [Mason-Hyde, who plays Cleo] is my daughter and Beau [Travis Williams, who plays Toby] was in 52 Tuesdays as well.” Pamela Rabe (Wentworth) rounds out the cast as matriarch Maude. Matthew Cormack, Matt Vesely, Rebecca Summerton and Hyde’s partner Bryan Mason complete the creative team.
Each episode of the six-part series – which was commissioned by ABC and Screen Australia through their 'Long Story Short' initiative – is told from a different character’s perspective. A comedic score courtesy of Mario Spate (AKA producer Badcop) punctuates the tension and stops things from veering too heavily into drama. “The freedom with calling it ‘comedy’ meant it could be a bit sillier, or it could work a bit harder at that,” says Hyde. “And it moves at a pace. It’s not slow, it’s not lingering. Everything keeps moving quite fast. So it was fun to do that.”
Next, Hyde has signed on to direct the film adaptation of Emma Jane Unsworth’s hit novel, Animals. US actor Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development, Search Party) is attached to star in the UK production alongside English actor Holliday Grainger. It may seem like a world apart but, as Hyde is proving, Adelaide isn’t so far away.
Fucking Adelaide premieres at Adelaide Film Festival on Sunday October 8. Tickets have sold out but another session has been added on Friday October 13.