Sitting at Elizabeth Gadsy and Alex Barry’s kitchen table – drinking mugs of freshly picked lemon myrtle tea, gazing out at their abundant garden and breathing in the clean mountain air – it’s clear why they made the move from Sydney’s Coogee Beach.

“The travel and logistics are definitely harder but we both feel there’s such a good pay-off because you can really decompress when you get home,” says Gadsby, one of Australia’s most in-demand stage designers.

“The things you talk about outside work are quite cleansing, like chickens and gardening, face painting and street parties,” adds Barry, an award-winning documentary maker.

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The creative couple has been living in Lawson with their four-and-a-half-year-old son Owen for two years. They met in a theatre foyer on the opening night of the Sydney Theatre Company’s (STC) Endgame in 2015. Barry was there with his best friend and former flatmate (and now STC resident director) Paige Rattray when he noticed Gadsby chatting with her friend and colleague, STC’s outgoing artistic director Kip Williams.

“I said to Paige, ‘Why have you never introduced me before?’ and she said, ‘Well she was married until very recently.’ So I joined the conversation,” recalls Barry.

Gadsby remembers being struck by Barry’s loyalty to his friend. “Alex asked me if I was single and we were going to go for a whisky together but Paige wanted to go home, so Alex drove her home and I thought, ‘That’s really great. He didn’t bail on her’.”

The couple married in 2019 on the banks of the Hawkesbury River with Rattray and Williams as best woman and man of honour.

Their dream home wish list included somewhere Owen could run around outdoors, with ample land for them to garden, a community-focused neighbourhood, and scenery that provided that wow factor. Sydney was increasingly expensive, but the Blue Mountains delivered.

The bespoke, Barry-designed and built chook pen is something to behold. And the home for the humans is inviting and warm, not only because of the log stove.

“We really lucked out,” beams Gadsby.

Gadsby is part of the creative teams for two upcoming world premieres: Sydney Dance Company’s (SDC) Momenta (sets and costumes) and Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Horizon. It’s her second time designing for Bangarra. She worked with artistic director and choreographer Frances Rings on her critically acclaimed 2023 production Yuldea.

For Horizon she’s working with a textural backdrop that moves and stretches and links the stories of choreographer Deborah Brown and co-choreographer Moss Te Ururangi Patterson. For Momenta, choreographed by artistic director Rafael Bonachela, she’s designed costumes and an immersive set that evokes the essence of fleeting moments suspended between past and future. She’s also working on Gilgamesh, an Opera Australia co-production with Sydney Chamber Opera.

But the juggle of living in the Blue Mountains and working in the city is real. Both SDC and Bangarra put her up in a hotel during the long days of tech and dress rehearsals. But it means Barry’s work needs to fit in around preschool drop-offs, pick-ups, bathtime and dinner, before returning to his computer to continue working.

A writer-director and cinematographer, he is currently co-directing feature documentary Deeper with award-winning filmmaker Jennifer Peedom. It follows Dr Richard Harris and Craig Challen (both involved in the 2018 rescue of a junior football team from a cave system in northern Thailand), who have spent the past two decades exploring an underwater cave in New Zealand.

“There’s one particular cave in New Zealand they’ve been exploring for a couple of decades; they’re going extremely deep in this cave so it’s a story of exploration but ultimately a story about Harry himself, and his journey of personal exploration,” Barry says.

Sydney Dance Company’s Momenta is playing Roslyn Packer Theatre, Sydney, until June 8 before touring Canberra, Perth and Melbourne. Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Horizon plays the Sydney Opera House from June 13 before touring Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne. Feature documentary Deeper will be released in cinemas in early 2025.

Read more in our Creative Couples series.