I hadn't lead a rehearsal room for close to 15 years and even then it was with friends who I'd studied with and formed a theatre company with the sole purpose of producing work we wanted to see. Back then, I had a shared language and aesthetic with my cohorts. Now - about to open the Sue Benner Theatre doors for Day 1 - I wasn't sure.
I'd written Yielding specifically for Cairns based artists Susan Prince and Kathryn Ash. With Suellen Maunder, they co-founded JUTE Theatre in 1992. They are fierce women, having a personal and professional relationship that affords great trust in each other’s creative choices. They are both accomplished playwrights, facilitators and directors who are uncompromising in their desire to create work of integrity.
Add to this, the last five or so years I have been working - insert occasionally seeing, more generally speaking over the phone - with Peter Matheson, one of Australia's leading dramaturgs. He challenged me to step up. "If you want to be a playwright, then bloody well write some plays" He is resolute, questioning of artistic choices that appear too easily reached, and he sees straight through my bluster.
These three and me? Would they see the merit in the work - the merit in me?
It appears they did.
The first three days were spent reading, discussing, breaking apart scenes and talking through the performance style I wished to see. There was respect, humour and a true sense of this being bigger than one week. We broke apart the tiered seating, dragging sections onto the stage. I'd raided IKEA the week before for lamps, floor lights and a simple rug to create a welcoming, warm space. Muscle memory returned and my gaffa tape skills were brought to the fore, but it was the unflappable Susan, high on a ladder, rigging a stage lamp with out a seconds hesitation who took out the 'gusto' prize.
All Yielding images courtesy of Caco Photography - www.caco.com.au
The readings to carers took place on the Thursday and Friday mornings. I had expected small turnouts due to the increasingly crappy weather so I was prepared for the 10 to 15 numbers that we got for each reading. Responses were extremely positive and several mentions were made of 'thats my life'. After the reading morning tea was laid on (provided by the gloriously kind Jue Wang). It was during this short time audience members actively sought out Susan and Kathryn to have close in, intimate chats. The Conversations - the facilitated discussion on the truth to the themes - opened up some interesting ideas which aren't covered. Namely financial concerns when dealing with long term caring and the pressures to keep up the facade of coping when out in the community.
Carers QLD expressed a desire to continue their involvement and suggested attending Carer Conferences and education events in the future. Dr Siobhan O'Dwyer attended and found seeing her research and statistical findings represented through storytelling quite powerful. I hope to collaborate with her on future scripts with in LSOTU as her studies ask bold questions.
What's refreshing about this play is that it doesn't pull any punches. It portrays a very real experience of caring - highs and lows, isolation and frustration, and the practicalities that we choose not to talk about - it's not every day that you see a scene in a theatre dealing with incontinence, for example.
Hayley Carter. First Magazine Winter 2015. Carer's Queensland
As luck would have it, the night of the public reading coincided with the worst storm Brisbane had seen since the floods of 2012. The CBD was cut off, roads were under water and everyone's thoughts were on getting home safe and dry. This meant the audience was made up of tenacious friends, soaked through Israeli tourists, Metro Arts stalwarts and foolhardy family.
The night ended with pasta and wine and a toast to crap weather.
Some ponderings on it all......
I'm still an unknown quantity.
But, sitting watching the BOM radar pulsate its orange and red blob of wet destruction all over my laptop screen, none of that mattered. I had my family driving, literally through hell and high water, to see something I'd written for the first time in over a decade. The carers, who I feared would see through the theatrics and call me out on my naivety, had all sat stunned. Caught in the crosshairs of their reflected experience. Beyond any measure, I ticked the credibility box when it came to the generous people who shared their stories with me. Of that, I am most proud.
On reflection, I gave myself too much space. Either I didn't believe that the script was strong enough to with stand the development process and I would be rewriting whole chucks of dialogue each night; or I expected continual questioning of the concept behind LSOTU and would be allaying big picture concerns at every corner. When you break it down - I didn't believe I could do it, therefore why would anybody else?
Self defeating toss.
I can catch the Industry on the next go around.
Funding? - hen's teeth in a piggery - for now.