Art & Design
Posted by Paul Andrew
16. Nov, 2010
This week sees the return of the MTC’s Cybec readings, an annual script development program pairing writers with director/dramturges to make a good script even better.
Paul Andrew chats writer David Mence about his post-apocalyptic play ‘The Gully’ and Director Dramturg Anne-Louise Sarks.
Describe “The Gully” in seven words?
Our lives are nasty, brutish and short.
Why a gully setting in the future?
The future is quite a specific one: it’s one in which all the water in Australia has dried up and, as a result, a very small population remains. Mostly these people live in fortress-cities which have deep water bores. Outside of these vestiges of civilization, the world is pretty nasty. The idea of a gully or a ravine was mainly that it would be a hiding place away from the wide open plains of the wastes. And also a place where – just possibly – a tiny trickle of fresh water might still flow.
Authors who first inspired you?
I came to drama through literature; as an undergraduate I discovered ‘Moby Dick’ and that pretty much set me off on the path I am still on today. I think Melville taught me that you could jam unexpected things together and create new things: like whaling and epic tragedy. My first play was sort of born of this idea: ‘ Macbeth Arisen’ was a sequel to Shakespeare’s Scottish Play written entirely in iambic pentameter which blended Elizabethan drama with B-grade zombie movies.
Tell me about what inspired your futuristic story. Bushranging, maybe?
For this project I drew on a rich field of post-apocalyptic fiction: ‘The Road’ by Cormac McCarthy, the Mad Max movies and ‘The True History of the Kelly Gang’ by Peter Carey. The original idea for the play was to develop a futuristic world that resembled the past, in which aspects of the colonial past had resurfaced, e.g. bushranging. But rather than bushrangers who cruise around stealing water from others – my original concept- I reworked the piece to be about a bunch of depraved men who have stumbled onto a water source and will do anything to protect it.
How do you feel the Cybec readings fit into the broader theatre milieu?
I think they present a really valuable opportunity for writers to develop a full-length script and to show it to a professional and interested audience. I also think it’s important for main-stage companies like MTC to continue to support up and coming writers as, in a few years times, they are going to be looking to a new generation of writers for viable work. Without support, emerging writers will not be able to learn the skills and the craft to be able to write successfully for those daunting stages, and let’s face it, we already have enough British and American imports on our stages year in year out.
Was there a gully in your childhood, Anne-Louise ?
I think we all have places in our life real and metaphorical we want to protect.
What drew you to ‘The Gully’ script?
I’m inspired by David’s ability to create such a rich and complex world that speaks to us about our own lives in Australia 2010.
The play’s premise ?
It’s a political piece about our world and our attitudes to each other and the land. And it’s hilariously comic. It’s a great story.
What challenges you in the script?
It’s very far away from me and my world. Men sharpening weapons around a billy can but that is both a challenge and a gift as a director/dramaturg. That distance is really crucial in supporting the development of the story and the world.
Which director’s inspire you and why ?
I have been lucky to watch the transformation of the Malthouse into a hub of new work. I’ve been inspired by the work of Directors Michael Kantor, Barrie Kosky and Benedict Andrews.
What is your most secret fantasy surrounding this November reading?
That this play gets another life!
What is really useful about these Cybec readings ?
It’s a brilliant opportunity to work inside a company, to understand the whole process of getting a work up and to be given complete freedom and independence to do that while being supported by the staff at the MTC.
Maybe it’s a silly question, but what do you feel actors bring to a script during a reading like this?
More than I could ever imagine alone. That’s the collective power of theatre. It lives and it breathes and it’s always better than what is in my mind alone. It should be an amazing night at the theatre.
The Gully will feature Amanda Falson and Tim Potter (below)
Six of Australia’s young and emerging artists will present the
second round of Melbourne Theatre Company’s Cybec Readings
on 18, 19 and 20 November 2010 at the MTC Theatre,
Check out www.mtc.com.au for casting details.
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