Perth playwright Chris Isaacs latest work Flood opens the 2014 Black Swan Theatre Company season and will be performed as part of the Perth Fringe Festival. Co-creator of It’s Dark Outside, nominated for a 2013 Helpmann Award, and member of Black Swan’s Emerging Writers Group, Chris took time to talk about the inspirations for his new play, his role models and the future.
Who are your role models?
Woah, that’s a tough one straight off the bat. I don’t really have any. I have lots of friends with qualities I admire and wish I had more of, I guess I don’t think about role models, but more attributes which I aspire towards. I think there’s a lot of amazing people in my life, but they have their bad sides too; in short, we’re all pretty complex people. As far as work is concerned I’ve learned a lot from those I’ve worked with. Having someone like Kate Mulvany as a mentor is a blessing. Other people in the industry like Adam Mitchell, Kyle Morrison, the cast, fellow members of The Last Great Hunt, … [a theatre collective who aim to make theatre that is “Creative.Engaging. Playful”] … friends from around the country and the world, they’re the people who inspire me the most. I’m really overwhelmed to be working with people whose art I am in awe of. What will you be doing when the curtain rises on opening night? I don’t know. I’m trying not to think about it too much. There might be the need for some Dutch courage beforehand though. Where did you get your inspiration and ideas for Flood? I wanted to write something about how I feel about Australia and its relationship to the Indigenous population. I feel we as a society bury atrocities and ignore major problems in our systems of power, which both marginalizes and ostracizes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. I’m not proud of this. I wanted to address or comment on this issue, but realized I, unfortunately, lack a certain authority on the subject. That is to say I’m not comfortable, or good enough a writer yet, to speak on behalf of Indigenous Australia. So I spoke on behalf of me, of feelings of guilt, of feelings of shame, of feelings of wanting to make a difference and not knowing how to do so. What can audiences expect from Flood? I think they’re in for a pretty exciting show. I don’t like setting expectations up before any show, but I will say I think we have a wonderful cast and artistic team. I think they’re doing a fantastic job with the script. They’re making me look a little better than I am really, which is nice. What do you hope audiences will take away from the performance? I want them to be entertained. I want them to think about how implicit race bias acts on each of us. I want them to talk about ideas in the show; for me art is there to create discussion. I hope this work creates some helpful and open discussion around the themes. What did you look for when casting Flood? I wasn’t involved that much in the casting process, that really fell to Adam Mitchell the director and others at Black Swan State Theatre Company. I know we wanted to have talented, quality young performers. We needed a varyied ensemble who could work well together, but also bring their own identity to the characters. I’m very lucky to have Will, Sam, Josh, Adriane, Whitney and Rose bring these characters to life for me. I can’t overstate how wonderful these actors are to me. As a writer I’m so blessed. What has been the hardest part about getting Flood to the stage? Self-doubt. The easiest? Working with the artists involved. What is next? Developing a new work with The Last Great Hunt (a new company I’m a part of), starting to put some of the next ideas down into drafts, and touring our (Tim Watts and Arielle Gray and my self’s) show from last year It’s Dark Outside around the UK and Australia through Perth Theatre Company. You are described as a performer, writer, director, devisor, composer and lighting designer. What is the easiet and hardest of these talents? And why? They’re all pretty easy and all pretty hard in their own way. For me writing is my favorite, more times than not. That doesn’t make it easier, I think it’s just that I feel more comfortable doing that than anything else. In any discipline it’s easy when it comes naturally, it’s hard when you can’t express what you want through that medium, as though you know what you want to say but you’re limited by your skills. I’m limited in all these areas, some a little more than others. So they’re all hard and all easy; context is the great equalizer. But as a side note, my composing needs work. I’m quite a novice at that. What advice would you give aspiring writers? Listen to advice from people smarter than me. That’s what I do.
The Studio Underground, State Theatre Centre of WA
17 Jan to 2 Feb 2014
Tickets: $24 – $49
Tickets through Ticketek.com, Ticketek outlets or 1300 795 012