Lally Katz has written a new version of Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House for La Boite and Brisbane Festival. Of course you knew that. But have you booked yet?
Lally, why do we need to keep revisiting A Doll’s House?
I guess as a culture we’re still fascinated by a woman who leaves behind all the things that women are taught to value and base their identity on. Plus the characters and story are great.
What’s different about this adaptation?
There are songs in it. And time is used differently. But it also keeps very closely to the original structure.
What was your first experience with the play?
My mother told me about it. She said her high school English teacher used to say, ‘It was the door slam that was heard all over the world.’ That always resonated with me.
How do you relate to Nora?
I am very different to Nora in lots of ways. But I have hidden longings and dreams too, like Nora, like most people. I have an almost opposite life to Nora, unlike her, I don’t have a husband and family. I have a career I’m obsessed with and I travel a lot. I don’t have to answer to anyone within my household, except my cleaner, who I really don’t want to lose. She comes once a week, and whatever she says, goes. I relate to Nora in that I wonder how can you have a family and keep yourself. I know lots of women must do it, but I have never worked out how to do it.. Sometimes I try to be like Nora in the beginning of the play. Sort of like a very happy housewife- because I think that will make me acceptable. But it never works. Often I find this heartbreaking, but relieving. I think there’s something women are still taught about how to see themselves. And we can go against that, but there is always a price. Also, like Nora, people sometimes treat me like a child. I can act like a child sometimes. I feel comfortable there. But I’m trying to change that. I’m currently learning to drive so I can leave that persona behind.
What do you think makes Steven Mitchell Wright the ideal director for this gig?
Steven has a brilliant theatrical imagination. He sees and hears theatre in a very unique way. I’m really excited to see the world that he creates. Steven and I talked a lot in the lead up to my writing this adaptation and he gave me these songs to listen to, that really brought me into the world and the heart of Nora and of the play. So I think we came to this together on the same wavelength. Steven makes arresting theatre, watching him in early rehearsals I was fascinated by the textures that he was building into the characters and the world. He has a very special and arresting way of seeing things. I think this will be fantastic for A Doll’s House.
Do you feel the need to write a sequel? What Nora Did Next?
No, not really. I like imagining lots of different stuff for Nora.
Which writers do you admire in the literary and theatrical worlds?
In Australia there are so many playwrights I love and admire. And they’re all so different from each other. Andrew Bovell, Joanna Murray Smith, Hannie Rayson, David Williamson, Wesley Enoch, Brendan Cowell, Andrew Upton, Jenny Kemp, Hilary Bell, Patricia Cornelius, Nicola Gunn, Tommy Murphy, Tom Holloway, Simon Stone, Anne Louise Sarks, Kit Brookman, Nikki Bloom, Tom Wright, Angela Betzien, Rita Kalnejais, Melissa Reeves, All the people who’s work I’ve watched and learned from and my peers. I’m forgetting LOTS of people. But I love the work of the writers in the Australian theatre industry. Outside of Australia there’s lots I love too- I love Caryl Churchill, Thorton Wilder, Tennesse Williams, Flannery O’Connor and Sarah Cane. But so many others. I am also reading a Stephen King book at the moment. I love his writing, But actually I can’t read it because it’s too scary. And I love lots of new plays and playwrights, but I can’t think of all of them now.
What made you start writing and keep writing?
I always wrote. I have always had a passion, a hunger and a drive to tell stories. I live for it. And I still do it because I’m still obsessed with it and I still live for it. Even though I am always behind on all my work. So really I live to procrastinate….
If you could write a letter to anybody and be sure they’d respond, who would it be?
Leonard Cohen. I just love him so much. And I wish I knew him and that we talked all the time. And I think I would really get a lot out of reading his letters. He’d be a great letter writer.
Describe your creative process/writing routine.
It is very chaotic. I spend a lot of time getting inspired and getting experiences and living everything enough to be able to write it, then I procrastinate for months and/or weeks. And then I sit down in a panic and write the first draft very quickly.
How much time do you spend “in the room” with the actors and director?
It depends on the production. Less as I get older to be honest. When I was younger I thought they needed me all the time. But now I find that it’s okay if I’m not there. The show doesn’t fall apart- sometimes it’s better because if I’m there then I can keep re writing too much and it doesn’t let everyone settle into and commit to the script. But that being said, there are definitely productions that are better if I am there a lot. Especially if the script isn’t quite done, or there’s still a lot of mysteries people need insights to inside the world and the characters.
What are you looking forward to seeing in this production?
I’m really looking forward to seeing the set and the costumes! And the actors in them of course!
What’s the significance for you of the inclusion of A Doll’s House in the Brisbane Festival program?
It’s really exciting for me. I love Brisbane and it’s the first time I’ve ever had a work in the festival. It’s thrilling.
What do you want to see/keep seeing in Australian theatre?
I want people to their rich imaginations. Australian writers have great texture and life in their work. But I think we can keep challenging ourselves more in structure and story.
What’s next for you?
I am going to be acting in an adaptation of my stage show STORIES I WANT TO TELL YOU IN PERSON for ABC Arts.