Posts Tagged ‘the dead devils of cockle creek

24
Jan
18

The Dead Devils of Cockle Creek – a chat with Kathryn Marquet

 

A Chat With Kathryn Marquet

 

The Dead Devils of Cockle Creek (February 10 – March 3) is a world premiere, penned by Kathryn Marquet…

 

McDonagh meets Tarantino in a biting new comedy about leading the charge for change.

Working out of a small shack in the isolated wilds of south-western Tasmania, George, an environmental scientist, is trying to save the world one Tassie Devil at a time. Since she was a small girl she has dreamt of halting the advance of climate change, but saving a species in the middle of nowhere will have to do, for now…

 

What have you been up to since Brisbane audiences saw Pale Blue Dot at La Boite?

Well, I’ve been acting and I’ve been writing. I was a finalist in the Queensland Premier’s Drama Award with my play, Furious Creatures.  I had a small role in the feature film Don’t Tell. I went to Sydney to work on a script with Playwriting Australia. I’ve been writing Dead Devils, and I’m currently doing my masters in playwriting at UQ.

 

What did the success of that play mean for your change of career path?

I was certainly very grateful for that experience and I enjoyed it immensely. I learnt an immense amount about playwriting. I guess it turned me from a dabbling playwright into a professional playwright.

 

Do you still love performing? How did the writing become the focus? Was it always the focus?

Creative careers don’t seem to have a particularly straight-forward path. I’m still an actor. I’m also a playwright. I’m riding the wave, in terms of what work’s available. Some weeks I feel more like an actor and other weeks I’m more a writer.  I acted in my first amateur play when I was nine. I wrote my first play when I was eleven. Both passions have always been in me.

 

 

Can you talk about the ways Ian Lawson and the team at Playlab supports writers and how you have come through the channels to become a published playwright? What else can writers do to get a foot in the door?

Playlab’s an amazing organisation for a city like Brisbane to have. They support writers at every stage of their career and at every point in development. I’d encourage budding playwrights to apply for the many development programs they have: from the Incubator through to the Playwright in Residence. The truth is you just have to write. The more you write, the better you’ll be. And, read. Take acting classes. Go and watch theatre. Plays are a very different medium to other writing. Ask actors to come over and read your work. Hearing it aloud is important. Keep submitting work to competitions and to various development programs. Eventually, the ball will start to roll.

 

What do you think of writing awards? Of Performing Arts awards generally?

Obviously, awards are always going to be at the whim of certain political agendas, whether you’re talking about the Academy Awards or a primary school performing arts award. But, I guess you take the good with the bad. Most people try to do their best and work ethically. 

 

I think writing awards are really important for a writer’s career. They offer not just much-needed funds, but also exposure.

 

How much of your writing is influenced by real life events?

I’m not so interested in autobiography. My life isn’t that interesting compared to what my imagination can come up. That being said, obviously I steal a lot from real-life everyday. I steal character idiosyncrasies, funny things I hear, etc, and my writing obviously focuses on the issues I care about.

 

 

What’s your process as a writer, your typical day? Routine? What do you do to take time out, away from the world you’re building?

I tend to write in the morning. I get up early, and go and sit in a cafe for a few hours. Being freelance, I do find it hard to relax. My brain’s always ticking over. But, I enjoy being in nature and hanging out with my husband and three cats.

 

Can you talk about the environmental concerns and the “post-truth” state of the world, and the ways in which your writing addresses these? Is this the way to reach our public then (has it always been so) – via art rather than politics? How political do you consider your art to be? 

I do think art has a part to play in manifesting change within society. By having robust conversations in a safe, communal space, I hope that change might be fostered. Culture is important for societies. We’ve known this for a long time. One of the most important things theatre can foster is empathy. When you get into someone else’s shoes, it’s easier to see multiple points of view. It’s easier to understand and have compassion. Playwrights, going right back to the Greeks, have always been interested in politics. I guess I’m less interested in politics and more interested in complex thought and a progressive society. The fact that there is still terrible violence in the world, terrible suffering, I think we need to take responsibility for that and try to eradicate it. I get frustrated by capitalism, that money is our only measurement of value. I think there must be a better way going forward.

 

Black comedy is an excellent genre for political writing. The writer, I guess, is presenting a series of horrific events in a way that is slightly absurd, slightly heightened. There is an irony to the work.

 

Black comedy isn’t didactic: it asks the audience to think for themselves. It doesn’t give easy answers. But I think comedy is the best genre to explore difficult things, particularly in the current climate.

 

The world’s rather concerning at the moment. We want to laugh. I guess I see the work as more Mcdonagh-esque than Tarantino-esque.

 

I do believe we’ve reached a crossroads in the course of human history:  we can march on, spewing out buzzwords like ‘growth’ and ‘progress’, leaving the weak and silent in our wake, watching as Earth’s creatures disappear.  OR, we can take a different path. Anything’s gotta be better than us all dying, right? I think the world is completely absurd, and I guess dead devils reflects that.

 

We’re in a burning building and we’re standing around the water coolers, looking at Facebook. I don’t really get it.

 

What did your research entail? Have you spent some time in Tassie? Did you snack on chicken nuggets? Will there actually be chicken nuggets on stage…at the bar?

I’ve been to Tassie twice. The second time my husband and I explored the South West, where the play is set. I worry a little about my internet-search history. It includes how to dispose of a dead body amongst many other shady things (I don’t want to give away too much).  Google is an amazing thing for a writer.

 

I’m vegetarian, so, no, I don’t snack on chicken nuggets. I sincerely hope there won’t be any at the bar. I don’t know, after watching the show, how keen people are going to be to eat them again.

 

We love, love, LOVE Emily Weir (pictured below) and we can’t wait to see her in this production. Joined by John Batchelor, Julian Curtis and Kimie Tsukakoshi, this makes for a superb little cast – from the writer’s perspective, are these performers who you had imagined might bring the roles to life on stage for the first time?

I love them all too. I’m very grateful and blessed to have them. They make an amazing ensemble. I try not to get any specific actors in my head when I’m writing. I tend to think of imaginary people. I guess I tend to think about energy of people — character’s spice, if you like — rather than their specific ‘look’. I couldn’t be happier with the cast we’ve assembled. They perfectly fit their characters and are immensely talented and lovely people.

 

 

When you’re writing do any of your characters morph into people in your life, or do you begin to recognise them in the street during the creative process? During rehearsals? (Have you been present in the rehearsal room? What has that been like, as a writer rather than performer?)

I do steal from life. I steal bits and pieces but never whole people. I watch for quirkiness in behaviour or language. So my characters are often a combination of a number of people I’ve come across, as well as added imaginary elements.

 

I have been in the rehearsal room full time. It’s a new work, and I have so much to learn about it from watching the actors in their characters. Playwriting’s different to other writing: it’s incomplete until it’s onstage. I’ll make changes for as long as they will let me!

 

What do you love about Ian’s direction? What has he brought to it that surprised you / hasn’t surprised you in the least?

I’m immensely grateful to Ian. We absolutely did this as a team. He has been a wonderful support from the start. And, he challenges me to look at the world in different ways and to think about my own ideology and how it manifests within my work.  Our brains work differently, and that means that we make a good ying and yang. He balances my more anarchic tendencies.

 

 

What do you love/need/live for/thrive on when living and working with like-minded creatives? What irks you?

I live for being in a rehearsal room. I’m most happy at those times. I love working in an ensemble. I love creative people. They really are the best. And, when you’re all working on bringing a project to life, there’s a wonderful sense of purpose. What irks me is that it has to end and I have to go back to freelance, which is always hard.

 

What have you taken from this process that will feed future work? What’s in the near future?

 

I’m constantly learning. I still feel like a novice. Playwriting is hard and I’ll think I’ll be learning my whole life long. I guess the biggest thing I’ve learnt on this project is how much steel is inside me. And, how much courage. I’m terrified, but I’m holding on because I believe so strongly in the work and the message of the work.

 

What do you hope people take away from this play? 

Well, my biggest goal is to make people laugh. Going to the theatre should be joyful. An escape. It should also be cathartic. At the moment, we’re seeing real polarisation in people and the way they’re shaping their world view. Truth and facts are being sacrificed for what’s comfortable and what’s convenient. I’d love people to consider not only their relationship with the earth and its creatures, but also their relationship with other humans. I believe complex thought is important and I hope that my play encourages this.

 

What do you want people to share on Facebook about this play? 

I’d love for it to open up conversations about change. I’d love people to share if they found it funny, and if it made them think.

 

Hero image & rehearsal room pics by Dylan Evans

 

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