Posts Tagged ‘richard jordan

09
Jun
18

Wheel of Fortune

 

Wheel of Fortune

Metro Arts & Tam Presents

Metro Arts Lumen Room

June 1 – 9 2018

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

 

 

LOCAL, NAUGHTY AND FUN.

Tim Hill, Director

 

Highly anticipated, Troy Armstrong’s Wheel of Fortune, directed by Tim Hill, promises the real and scandalous, weirdly erotic, ugly, obscene, beautiful, strange and sometimes disturbingly lustful adventures of several individuals during the heat and humidity of a Brisbane summer, and at times it delivers. It could be heralded as the new La Ronde if it had that seminal play’s wit, eroticism and intrigue. This production, and all of its potential, will have been embraced by those who support our local talent without question and by those who know little of the original text. Penned in 1897 by Arthur Schnitzler, it was immediately banned due to its controversial content, addressing the spread of venereal disease through all levels of society at a time when those in positions of privilege and power believed themselves to be above infection, responsibility and reproach. The stories are updated and localised, and despite feeling a little outdated at times, at the core is the connection between characters; think one degree of separation and the mysteries of the multiverses.

 

 

 

Wheel of Fortune’s form is beautifully supported by its cinematic component, placing the intertwining tales squarely in Brisbane. Optic Archive’s AV contribution here is integral; we see locations and characters on screen before any live action takes place below it. The transitions are well rehearsed with timing almost perfect. The show must have been a nightmare to tech! Interestingly, the preferred option to address the more delicate aspects of the script appears to be a big-screen, super-soft-porn approach, with the steamiest action taking place above the stage. A post-crossfit shower scene is actually about as steamy as it gets, but perhaps there is more in other scenes for some, and it’s likely that the actors have embraced racier moments with more gusto as the season continued. In spite of Richard Jordan’s involvement – I’ve really loved his writing in the past – it all feels a little overwritten and obvious (the other writers are Jacki Mison & Krystal Sweedman). Most scenes lack nuance, pointing to each hot topic and then pointing again in case we missed it. There’s a distinct lack of electricity in the air, and very little bare flesh, even when a scene begs for it. No, I don’t want to see gratuitous nudity for the sake of it (we’ve had to address that before, haven’t we?), but I won’t object to the beauty and sensuality of bodies on stage should the material and a sensitive director, respectful lighting, and the acting chops of the cast support its inclusion for good reason. 

 

 

So. Schnitzler’s soldier is made a marine (we can tell, because Richard Lund wears blue jeans, white shirt and dog tags, and speaks with what he claims/explains is a Tennessee accent), the prostitute becomes public servant (Meg Bowden), the parlour maid an au pair (Jacqui McClaren), and the young gentleman a schoolboy (Brendan Lorenzo). His biology teacher is the original young wife (Jacqui Story), and her husband the lawyer (Ron Kelly). His mistress, Schnitzler’s Little Miss, is referred to as the socialite: AKA Social Media Influencer/Collaborator (Ruby Clark). Clark is cute and funny as she casually climaxes at the dinner table and just as casually seduces another woman in the following scene, but like Story, the new wife, in both the gym and at home, she’s dressed in the most unflattering and ordinary sexy lingerie we’ve seen on stage in a long time. Having weaned our Sunshine Coast and Brisbane audiences off modest attire for the stage a decade ago (thank you, Honey Birdette), I wasn’t the only one on opening night wishing we could go away claiming to have been a little more voyeur than viewer, however; of course there were others who were completely happy with every aspect of the production, including the everyday briefs and bras on display. And yes, of course there are times when the most ordinary can be made extraordinary and no, this was not one of those times.

 

 

 

In the most naturalistic and welcome performances of the night, the poet is made portrait photographer (Elise Grieg) and the actress stays an actress (Veronica Neave), to be caught out by the end with the count cum politician (Stephen Hirst). Grieg and Neave demonstrate with ease exactly the style and sensibilities we wish could be so natural for every other performer on the intimate Lumen Room stage.

 

 

 

 

My experience of this production can be considered fairly biased but unfortunately for those involved, it’s not in their favour, because one of our first sold-out shows on the Sunshine Coast was an adaptation of La Ronde, re-staged in a surf shop in Mooloolaba after its Noosa season (long before Anywhere Festival arrived on the scene) and followed by original works, Erotique (Noosa Long Weekend Festival, Sydney Fringe Festival) and Diabolique (Noosa Long Weekend Festival). The beauty of all three productions was that the director didn’t shy away from the really dark, disturbing aspects of human nature, successfully balancing these moments with wry wit, black comedy and unnerving silences, and added Leah Barclay’s incredible original musical compositions to evoke mood, which was necessarily nightmarish or desperately sad at times.

 

 

What I love about Wheel of Fortune is that it’s brought so many of our newer heads and hearts together, without masses of money or the allure of a bigger venue and a broader audience, the very things that can so often see the artistic vision compromised before it’s realised. Here we see accomplished actors and relative newcomers working together in one of the most supportive spaces in the city for new work, and we see the creative team, steered by Armstrong, working collaboratively to offer something new and exciting to a younger demographic, and with a particularly local flavour. The best advice I was ever given in terms of seeing and considering work was to see everything. That way – we hope – a singular opinion has at least a little credibility to it, and the work is supported, whether or not we are all in agreement about its impact.

 

Wheel of Fortune enjoys its final performances at Metro Arts this weekend. You should see it. 

 

Production pics by Deelan Do

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12
May
14

Machina

 

Machina

La Boite Indie & Madcat Creative Connections

With the support of QPAC

The Loft

May 8 – 24 2014

 

Reviewed by Xanthe Coward

 

Six Degrees – Bloomberg – Usenet – GeoCities – Friendster – MySpace – Orkut – Flickr – Facebook – Twitter – Tumblr – Instagram – Pinterest – Linkedin – Google+ – SnapChat – Kik – Machina

 

deus ex machina

 

No, not the Smashing Pumpkins album, not the motorcycle, and not the famed café chain (now open in Bali!).

 

MACH_ShowPageBlock_690x250

 

I don’t know that Machina’s ending is quite right but let’s not start there. Let’s start at the very beginning, which is basically where we are right now, transfixed by a screen, quite possibly by multiple screens, juggling gadgets; probably engaging in several conversations whilst simultaneously checking emails and scrolling through news feeds.

 

We are living masterfully created half-lives online and something else, something almost resembling real lives, offline.

 

Machina is a play to make us think deeply about the connections we make – or fail to make – in real life and those we make so effortlessly in the virtual world via various social media constructs, which we’ve had at our fingertips since well before 2004 when the world’s most popular platform, Facebook, first appeared. That’s right. It’s Facebook’s tenth year so what better time to program, as part of the La Boite Indie season, Richard Jordan’s intriguing new work about a guy who decides that “going inside” is a better option than continuing life on earth. Think about that. It’s mind blowing.

 

One month ago, David Sergeant made the ultimate commitment to social media, choosing to forever separate mind and body by uploading his consciousness into social networking site Machina. An experimental and irreversible new process known as ‘going inside’, the user discards their need for a physical body and attains a kind of digital immortality in the cloud.

 

2005_facebook_profile.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge

 

WOW. UPLOADING HIS CONSCIOUSNESS. As you will have read in the Playwright’s Note and in our interview with Jordan here, the notion of disappearing from real life in order to live eternally in the ether is not as sci-fi as it might at first appear to be. Sometimes I think some of us are already ready to opt (out) for that. Scary, really. There is good reason behind the loneliness people feel, despite having thousands of Twitter and Insta Followers and Facebook friends…the interactions are not quite the same, are they?

 

youneedtogetofffacebook

 

I used to spend a lot more time on Facebook and Twitter. No, really! Social media is an addiction and I tend to go through phases of taking responsibility for decreasing the amount of time daily on each social media platform. I seem to be on Instagram a lot more often lately. I totally blame Fat Mum Slim’s #fmsphotoaday challenge for that! I also love to keep up with pics from my family on Insta because there’s a new baby, and #100waystospellterese

 

I often explain to friends that Instagram is to the Internet what Disneyland is to the planet – it’s the happiest place online.

 

I can’t stand the sob stories, vaguebooking, self-promotion and relentless advertisements in my Facebook news feed so more often than not I’ll use Insta to post a photo (my Insta is also synched to Twitter #sorrynotsorry) and I’ll use Facebook just to check in somewhere #xsneverstops

 

procrastination

As the X of XS Entertainment I often feel a certain amount of pressure to maintain the public image we’ve worked so hard to establish. Don’t get me wrong, we really actually do have heaps of fun! And if we’re not having fun, I’m generally not posting about it. Social media lets us edit our lives this way so what we’re seeing is only the most interesting, gorgeous, intelligent, witty, wonderful, successful versions.

 

Wait. You knew that, right?

 

I still rely on gmail for invites, press releases and quick notes about what’s happening around town but I’m trying to measure the amount of time spent being a passive user of social media, which is really just another way of admitting that I’m trying to procrastinate less.

 

As a consequence of not being prolifically on any particular platform anymore, I miss stuff. I miss birthdays, engagements, weddings, separations, the births of babies, the acquisition of new pets, and the loss of old pets, your new pair of shoes, your new property, your new position at work, your children’s achievements and much more. Sometimes I suffer from serious #FOMO and other times I genuinely think that friends and family members will call or email if they have something they need me to know. Sometimes I’m right and I hear from them IRL! Hooray! Sometimes I CALL THEM! I KNOW! I feel slightly disconnected, yes, but I’m not prepared to go back to the hours of trawling through news feeds, and liking and sharing and re-tweeting to safeguard against you thinking that I don’t care about what’s happening in your life. I do care. But LIFE is happening (or trying to happen) here too and sometimes that doesn’t need to be announced.

 

I MIGHT BE WRITING. BUT I MIGHT NOT POST ABOUT IT.

 

I have friends who simply deactivate their accounts temporarily in order to get things done. Do they really? Wow! Do you? Do you get more done? Or do you sit and wonder what everyone is up to while you’re not reading their updates? My preferred strategy involves resisting checking any social media before the school run and also, whenever I’m supposed to be focusing on something. Like a review. Or a movie. Or a conversation. *opens new tab to check Facebook purely for the Production Gallery images on La Boite Theatre Company’s page. Really.

 

deactivatedfacebookforanhour

 

On weekdays that’s around 9am and for the most part of the day…some days. Some days I just see how many hours from waking I can stay off social media! I know, it’s exciting, isn’t it? When I’m out somewhere I might post a foodie photo, check into a place on Facebook and see that I have, like, 84 notifications. Sometimes I check some of them. I’m truly sorry if I miss your stuff. I’m confident in the knowledge that if our friendship and/or support is valuable enough to you, you’ll call or sms or email to get my attention, and just so you know, I’m trying to do that more often too. *brings iPhone screen to life to make sure there is no message regarding tomorrow’s arrangements, which include a lunch date, school pick up, yoga and a meeting in Brisbane at peak hour traffic time. What was I doing? Oh, the blog. Review. Right.

 

In Machina, Director, Catarina Hebbard, has deftly created a world on stage of missed connections – barely-even-there connections – as well as ever-present people with whom the characters are yet to connect (I love the opening image of dancers floating “out there”, together in isolation in the ether…or is it in real life?). It’s as if we are watching the same self-study that leads to considering deactivating the social media accounts, but not seriously, because if we do so where will we be? What will become of us? We won’t exist in the minds of others if our news is not in front of them every day and we might even cease to exist for ourselves. What are we if not a continuously evolving online presence? #ifitdidnthappenonfacebookdiditreallyhappen

 

machina_liamandpeter

 

Some of the connections between characters come across more successfully than others. I love the very awkward relationship between Scott (Jack Kelly) and Tom (Liam Nunan), particularly during their first meeting at a bus stop. Necessarily AWK-WARD. This scene is played out beautifully, perfectly timed to elicit the sort of restrained laughter we feel might offend because somebody (Scott) is just trying so hard! I feel like Nunan is the one to watch here – he has some superb moments of reflection and intense emotion throughout the play as he struggles to communicate offline and away from his completely competent online persona. Within his story is the crux of the play – how do we see others, and ourselves, and how do we present in real life with the same confidence and charisma as that which we’ve created online? In contrast, Kelly may have some subtlety to learn but his vivid characterisation is perfectly suitable, and he brings a lovely lightness to the production.

 

machina_liam

An odd friendship develops between Amanda (Luisa Prosser) and Hannah (Judy Hainsworth) that could possibly become another play – it seems to want to be its own story, with the girls switching online and actual identities, however; other than to prove a point I’m not sure why there is so much time afforded to this. The connection that we need, and the one I enjoy most, is between Isobel (Kaye Stevenson) and Adam (Peter Rasmussen). Stevenson plays David’s mother and she connects online via the social media platform, Machina, with Adam, who confesses he is there “for the sex”. Through this unlikely relationship she learns the truth about David – that at thirty-something her son was depressed and friendless, and felt his family would be better off without him actually being around. Despite the exposition, I left feeling a little confused, I’ll admit, which is perhaps the desired effect. Was David really dead then? He must be, but the question remains, are we ever truly gone now?

 

one-does-not-simply-get-off-facebook

 

It’s clear that the piece has come from eleven separate scenes, the feeling of “dis/connect” is apparent throughout, though at one point early on, a scene erupts in such a tumult of noise and movement, a frenzy that detracts rather than adds value to the notion of Multi-tasking, like when I come back the next day to the ten or more tabs left open on my MacBook because I was “in the middle of something” or “coming back to something” or “keeping something to read for later” (yes, I know there are apps for that!), and I end up closing the window in frustration, too overwhelmed to start again and check out one by one, each of the tabs I felt were so important.

 

Machina is a beautifully considered and intelligent new work that needs some work, sure (the séance and the grating pulling-the-plug sound in between scenes can probably go!), but see it in The Loft, a space made more intimate than you might expect, with its white “cloud” overhead, and pure white blocks and props rather than the clutter and colour of real life. It makes it a rather surreal environment, as if we’d floated in after being online for thirty days straight. The design team, comprising Andrew Panda Haden (Lighting and Set Design), Phil Hagstrom (Composer and Sound Design) and Susan Marquet (Costumes), has had a field day keeping it simple and helping our focus to shift from one part of the fragmented story to the next.

 

The final part of the play offers some hope after all, promising that it’s still possible to make real-world connections, and that it’s really not as difficult or as awkward as we sometimes think it is, but the end comes too quickly, almost before we absorb what’s happening – physical contact, a warm and familiar, old fashioned, comforting, homecoming big old bear hug. Because that’s it. That’s sometimes all we need to do to reconnect; actually reach out, literally, hug. hold a hand, sit and look at each other, and take turns to listen and really talk to each other, actually engage, fully, without a smartphone in one hand and a mouse or tracking pad under the other. It’s clear (perhaps it already was) that the implications of virtual and social media taking over traditional communication channels include the loss of the skills we already had, that for some of us didn’t come easily in the first place. I can’t even imagine what social media would have done for me growing up. Apparently, I hid behind my mother’s skirts and said very little until I was nine. I know, you don’t believe it either. Now, with a daughter not turning nine for another year, who is totally tech-savvy and always checking in with me (“Mum, aren’t you going to foodie photo this?”) and downloading her own apps (“Mum, it’s a free one. I need your password!”), I’m really aware of how much time I spend on gadgets relationships.

 

phonestack_game

Richard Jordan’s Machina is a cold, hard kick in the guts and a self-effacing laugh at the same time, and if you’re not already suggesting a phone stack at dinner, you will be after experiencing this show.

 

 

SHARE THIS REVIEW #justkiddingbutnotreally

 

 

machina_kaye

 

Images by Nick Morrissey.

06
May
14

Machina – a chat with actor Peter Rasmussen

 

A chat with Actor, Peter Rasmussen…

 

Peter Rasmussen. Image by Nick Morrisey.

 

Peter, tell us about your role in Richard Jordan’s new play, Machina.

Adam is a social media addict and works in the Machina corporation. He revels in the fun and superficial side of life but this hides a deeper insecurity. He is someone who has been deeply misunderstood and has great difficulty creating meaningful relationships. It’s been fascinating exploring his need to connect with someone who means something to him. He also holds a dark secret about David.

 

Did you audition for Director, Catarina Hebbard? How did you prepare for your audition? Did you have to post a pic to Instagram and tweet your interest in the role? Just kidding. But not really.

 

I did audition. I haven’t auditioned in about seven years. Even though I knew most of the people involved it was still scary. My preparation was to discover that main objective of my character and find myself inside it, if that makes sense. Yes, I did Instagram during the Audition. Just kidding. But not really.

 

Can you talk about preparing for the role and what the rehearsal process has been like?

It’s been a challenging process for me but made so much easier by having wonderful people to work with. Richard Jordan’s script is brilliant. Catarina Hebbard creates a wonderful environment to work in. The rest of the cast are fun, open and very hard working.

A lot of the work has been to find how this world works and the fact that no character ever leaves the stage. Although people enter and exit scenes their story continues.

Above all, it’s been a pleasure to be working.

 

How do you learn lines?

Slowly.

Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people who read a script and have it down straight away. I’ve been experimenting with visual techniques of linking images which has been working well. Also, if you know why you are saying something and really understand the script, you can get to a place where saying the next line becomes an inevitable response to the previous line. Most of all, I try and make it fun and exciting for myself, then I remember.

 

What do you look for in the other characters to help you construct your character?

Back in my uni days I was taught to go through the script and see what all the other characters say about your character.

Once we get up on the floor it’s great to experiment with different things, while working with the other actors.

 

How important are relationships on stage? Do you have some hot tips for connecting with other actors?

Listen. Really listen. I know if I let my concentration wander off the other actor, I lose what I’m doing. It’s awful to watch two actors saying lines near each other, without caring what is happening in the other actors. That being said it’s a very hard thing to do. I like to try and get a reaction from the other actors on every line. Provided each action serves the story, this works for me.

 

What else do you teach when you work with actors?

I presume you are talking about my acting classes. I teach acting on Monday and Wednesday evenings at Griffith University Film. It’s been wonderful to teach talented Brisbane actors for the last 2 years. I love to see revisiting performances and we have been coming up with same amazing stuff in class. For anyone who is interested please visit my website.

 

How do you feel about the Australian theatre scene at the moment? How is our film and television industry looking?

 

I am always excited by the amazing talent of Australian Theatre makers and the film and TV industry. I’m excited that people in Brisbane are embracing the arts in a big way. There seems to be more happening that ever before.

 

How versatile do our actors need to be and how do they find good training and good representation?

Actors always need to have a good range. Now, by good range, I mean be able to see and live inside many situations. Actors who do one well will be limited. For instance, actors who get on our soaps either learn how to expand their range and go onto international careers or get stuck in one thing, leave after three years and have no career. We must always expand and grow what we do in order to fit with the unpredictable nature of what roles become available. I highly recommend training in order to stay strong as an actor.

 

As an actor, how important is a public online profile? Should actors be tweeting more often? Which is your favourite social media platform for actors?

As far as I can see, social media is for actors to connect with other people in Film and TV and Theatre generally for unpaid gigs. In terms of higher end things the old systems of Agents and Casting Directors is the major way people get paid work.

I tend to be on Facebook but I understand this is pretty old hat now. I have a twitter account and Instagram is still something I haven’t tried.

 

Do you think we’re less social in real life than we have been in the past? How important are real life connections? Are we missing networking opportunities offline?

As a person approaching 40 I find social networking helps me stay in touch with the people I care about. We can arrange to catch up more easily than ever before. I don’t think I see any less of the people I care about because of social media. Sometimes, I feel the opposite.

 

If I want to hide people have about 10 different ways they can send me a message and that doesn’t include knocking on my door and saying hi. It can be trickier to have that alone time.

 

Machina runs May 8 – 24 2014 at The Loft for La Boite Indie.

 

Peter Rasmussen. Image by Nick Morrisey.

 

 

 

06
May
14

Machina – A chat with playwright Richard Jordan

 

 

A chat with Playwright, Richard Jordan…

 

Set to become one of the most talked about new plays of the year, Machina runs May 8 – 24 2014 so if it interests you, better book for it! And look YOU’RE ONLINE so it will certainly interest you.

 

One month ago, David Sergeant made the ultimate commitment to social media, choosing to forever separate mind and body by uploading his consciousness into social networking site Machina. An experimental and irreversible new process known as ‘going inside’, the user discards their need for a physical body and attains a kind of digital immortality in the cloud.

 

Now, as David’s family, friends and ex-lovers struggle to come to terms with his physical absence, questions are being asked about why this promising young man committed the equivalent of social suicide. Did he go willingly? Or was he pushed? David’s mother is determined to find out, even if it means reaching out to her son from the other side…

 

Set in an uncomfortably familiar world of carefully-constructed online profiles and disposable digital relationships, Machina is a bold and ambitious new play by Richard Jordan (25 Down).

 

Now that you’ve booked your tix, you can settle in with a beverage and enjoy some background on Machina and its creator, Richard Jordan.

 

Richard-10 B&W cropped

 

Mister, The Courier Mail says, “Jordan has his finger on the pulse of his generation.” I think this must be true because your new play, Machina, takes the topics of disconnect and social media to a whole new level! Why did you have to write this play?

 

Around the time of my last play (25 Down), I started having a very negative reaction to Facebook. (I think everyone’s gone through this at some point!). I’d been a Facebook member for a few years by then, and by 2009 / 2010 the novelty had begun to wear off. I felt like I was receiving press releases from my friends every day about how amazing their lives supposedly were, and it just made me feel isolated and depressed about my own life. So I actually deleted my original Facebook account, and stayed off for about 18 months. During that time I moved to Melbourne – where I knew a grand total of two people – and attempted to become a different person. I was trying to escape my own skin, I guess, and I used the internet to do that – to try on different virtual personas, and binge on YouTube or news sites for hours on end, sponging up information. It was a horrible 18 months, really, but so much of Machina comes out of that period of my life.

 

The other interesting thing about the experience was that as soon as I rejoined Facebook (in 2012), it was like I magically existed again – friends and acquaintances who had completely forgotten about me now remembered I was alive. And it made me ponder how much we rely on the internet to “exist” now, at least in the minds of other people.

 

David chooses an eternity in the cloud rather than a lifetime on Earth. Is that a decision based on personal ponderings?

 

Yes it is, definitely.   After 25 Down I lapsed into a really horrible period of depression – the type of depression that weighs you down, that you feel on your chest and your shoulders as a physical sensation. I hated myself so intensely that I started to not feel safe in my own skin. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to be myself either. So the notion of a virtual eternity “in the cloud” – away from my body, away from my pain, and removed from all emotions – was quite an appealing thought at the time.

 

Aside from that, though, I’ve always felt somewhat “disconnected” from my body, and I wondered if my use of technology was aiding that somehow.

 

How does the concept of “social suicide” in real life weigh up against absence from online networking sites?

 

I suppose the adage seems to be true now – “if you’re not online, you don’t exist”. But interestingly, even a person’s bodily death has no effect on their virtual presence – all of our data, our comments, our banter, our photographs will be stored on some server in North Dakota long after we’ve perished. And in some ways that’s a comforting thought, and in other ways a terrifying one.

 

How disconnected do you think we really are in 2014? How do you stay connected to “the real world”?

 

Incredibly disconnected. You look at any given bus stop, train carriage, library, park bench – nobody is present in the world that they actually live in. They’re present in the device that they’re holding. And I don’t mean to sound like a Luddite, or a scaremonger, or anything like that – and God knows I do all of that stuff too – but if a bunch of aliens came down to Earth and watched us all buried in our phones, they’d surely be scratching their heads! Our technology has become all consuming. And I wonder what that signifies about our culture.

 

Often, I think I’m the one with my head in the phone. Do you have some hot tips for living real life as it happens? Or, more specifically, hot tips for turning off devices?

 

No hot tips, no! I’m as addicted as anyone. Although, interestingly, I developed a bad case of RSI in my forearms at the end of 2012 which is only just easing off – and all from overusing my forearm extensor muscles with constant typing and texting. It was so debilitating that I actually got rid of my iPhone for about 14 months and got an old fashioned flip phone instead, just so I had no temptation to go online when I was out and about! During that year I read books again, I looked out the window, and I listened to music. It was like the old days. But of course it was annoying too – no Google Maps, no access to emails, none of the stuff you take for granted with a smartphone. Needless to say I have an iPhone again, and all the old bad habits have come back! But I am more mindful about giving it a rest from time to time – if only to look after my arms.

 

Can you talk about connection and addiction? What do you think are some of the effects of our addiction to social media on family and friends?

 

I guess just ignoring the present moment, more than anything. We privilege the virtual over the physical all the time. “Just a minute, I have to respond to this.” But that physical moment is never going to happen again. Ever. And it’s the only thing that actually makes us human beings. Everything else is data.

 

 

Can you talk about your creative process? Do you have a magic formula for writers?

 

My process keeps evolving and changing. I like to try to new things. But with this play I did have a very specific way of working – almost like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

 

The play actually began as a series of 11 disparate scenes that I collected together under the name dis/connect: Scenes for Machines and Humans. In September 2011 I was an Artist-in-Residence at Marrickville Council in Sydney. It’s a fantastic program – they basically give you a space (rent-free) above an old clock tower for a month, and you can make any kind of work you like. The only condition is it has to somehow engage with the local community. So I pitched the idea of investigating how Marrickville residents were coping with new technologies, something I’d wanted to write about for a while. During the month I travelled to each of the 11 suburbs in the council area, and would write a scene based on my experiences in that suburb. In one suburb, for example, I went to a Computers for Beginners class at the local library, and observed three middle-aged women so terrified of the machines in front of them they thought a wrong button might cause an explosion. I expanded on this and wrote a scene that ended up in dis/connect, and is now the first scene of Machina.   The rest of the process after Marrickville continued in a similar fashion – writing random scenes, and then making connections – who is this character? Does this person know the people in the other scene? What is their relationship? Etc. In this way the writing came from a very organic place – my right brain leaving clues for me, and my left brain making sense of them. It has to be this way for me. If I ever sit down and go “I’m going to write about intimacy and it will start like this and end like this”, the result is always clichéd and obvious – something I’ve seen a million times before. Right brain writing is more dangerous – and often more time consuming – but it’s always more rewarding. You never know what’s inside.

 

How did winning the Premier’s Drama Award for 25 Down help you as a writer?

 

I think the biggest thing it did for me was give me confidence. Every writer is riddled with self-doubt, and I’m no exception. But when someone gives you an award, and puts the play on, and you garner good reviews – you do start to think: “Maybe I’m not so completely hopeless at this.” It keeps you going.

 

What can playwrights do to get their work read, published and produced?

 

That’s the eternal question! And unfortunately in this country, it’s particularly difficult. The only way a playwright can learn is from seeing their work on the stage, by being involved in the theatrical process. But the financial risk of putting on a new play is enormous, and most companies shy away from it for that very reason. And so we have an endless cycle of writers who need experience not getting it, and writers who do get to have that experience being howled out of town if they happen to make a few bad choices. It’s a high stakes game, and I wish that could be changed somehow.

 

I think the one thing any playwright can do to get their work out there is to learn how to produce – and put it on yourself!

 

I’ve certainly had to that this time around. I could have waited years trying to get Machina on the professional mainstage – and by then, who knows how technology may have changed? For me it was important that the play be seen now, in 2014, and the only way I could ensure that was do put it on myself. (With the help of my co-producer Catarina Hebbard, of course!). It’s been quite the learning curve, and incredibly hard work – but as a playwright it’s given me a much greater appreciation for the logistics of getting a show up, and I think that’s important knowledge to have.

 

What do you see happening in Australian writing for the theatre at the moment, and what would you like to see? (What do you think we need to be writing about?)

 

I see a lot of storytelling at the moment. These endless two and three handers where actors just talk at the audience for two hours – often in lovely poetic language but with no sense of dynamism, no sense of drama. I want to see characters interact on stage, to have a story shown to me, and not told. It’s harder to write – of course it is – but it’s infinitely more satisfying for an audience.

 

Cast sizes also are an eternal problem – the cast size of Machina is 6, which is way too large these days from a financial perspective. And yet you look at Death of a Salesman and the cast size is 13 or something! It makes me weep.

 

Who are your greatest influences and with whom would you like to work?

 

My favourite playwright after all these years is probably still Carly Churchill. Her plays are just so alive, and they come from a subterranean place – what Arthur Miller called “the inner world.” I love how Churchill is so often concerned not simply with the obvious questions about modern society, but about the questions behind those questions – the very philosophical bedrock that our notions of sex, or colonialism, or human cloning – or whatever – are founded on.

 

Aside from Churchill, I’ve been influenced by so many playwrights – Miller, Williams, Ibsen, Chekhov, Buchner. Christopher Shinn (a New York playwright) had a big impact when I was younger. Thornton Wilder’s Our Town was a huge influence on Machina, actually. From Australian playwrights, Alex Buzo’s Coralie Lansdown Says No is probably the only Australian play I wish I had written – as much as I admire people like Gow and Nowra and Sewell. But Buzo’s potent mix of humour and tragedy – the lone woman sticking two fingers up to Australian masculinity, at the very height of the New Wave – it’s a very special play.
What is your role when you step into the rehearsal room? Are there rewrites during the rehearsal process? What do the actors do for you at this point?

 

I do re-writein the rehearsal room – I think it’s essential, actually. Some things you just don’t see until it’s up on its feet, and as a playwright you should be ready to respond to that. Just two weeks ago I had to cut a whole page out of Scene 3 of Machina – it had read fine on the page, but suddenly on its feet it was clear the scene was going on for much too long. A lot of ideas which I thought I had to be explained through dialogue were suddenly self-evident through the actors’ body language. And actors are amazing at picking up inconsistencies or wonky word choices for their characters. You’re thinking about the play on a macro level, and they’re thinking about it on a micro level – so I always take the feedback I get from actors very seriously.

 

MACHINA_HERO_24FEB14-2MID RES

 

How important is your social media presence for you personally and professionally?

 

I re-joined Facebook in 2012 predominantly for professional reasons. I found when I was away from it that events would happen that I simply had no idea about – the Matildas for example! At least on Facebook now I feel like I have some semblance of what’s going on around town. But I use it differently now on a personal level – I do still post personal updates occasionally, but always in an ironic, humorous way – I never post confessionals anymore. Trying to engage with people on a deep level via Facebook is a recipe for heartbreak. I treat it as the extension of the schoolyard that it is.

 

What are your thoughts on private lives being made public, and the use of personal (unpublished) journals and diaries as opposed to online activity? For example, the value of Day One journaling app or a paper diary compared to a Tumblr site.

 

Well it’s inevitably going to alter what you write, how you write it, etc, because of the context: a paper diary is intended only to be written for yourself, and so there’s less a sense of self-censorship or self-awareness in that. Online of course you’re writing with the knowledge that this will be publicly viewed, and possibly critiqued, or shared, or celebrated, or quoted. All of a sudden the walls go up. The self-consciousness sets in. The need to entertain, the need to be thought of as cool, all these things become more important than the thing itself. I could never diarize online – not honestly.

 

Tell us about working with Director, Catarina Hebbard.

 

Cat’s an incredible director to work with – mainly because she’s just so open. Open to ideas, open to suggestions, open to input from the entire company. While there’s never any doubt that she’s in charge, she’s not the kind of director who’s tyrannical about that position – it’s all about making the meaning of the work clear to the audience.   Not all directors know how to work on a new play, or work with a writer for that matter: Cat’s never threatened by my being in the room, or by my suggestions – she welcomes them and is always open to trying things out.

 

Tell us about your experience using the crowdfunding platform pozible.com in order to produce Machina. How important was social media during this time?

 

The irony is interesting, isn’t it! For a play that is often critical of social media, that platform was incredibly important for us in financing this production. Cat and I were so overwhelmed and humbled by the support we received via Pozible. It meant we were able to pay for our set, props, and costumes without relying purely on box office takings, which was a massive weight off our shoulders, as had not received any other funding.

 

There’s no doubt that the internet has and is doing amazing things for our industry, and in one way crowd-funding is a definite example of that. But on the other hand it is a dangerous game – if governments start to sense that crowdfunding is the future, then further cuts to the Arts are inevitable.

 

I think it’s important to stress that Pozible and Kickstarter are sites that can complement current funding models, but not replace them. We raised around $5000 on Pozible and that’s amazing – but if we were trying to pay our actors professionally this would only equate to 10% of our budget. If we are serious about creating a sustainable independent sector, then government funding is still an essential part of that equation.

 

 

 




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