A Quick Chat with writer and director Lucy Clements
How do you go from study to premiering your first full-length play at a beloved Sydney indie joint? Lucy Clements knows. She graduated from WAAPA with a Bachelor of Performing Arts in 2015. In 2014 she established her own theatre company, Ghosts, and developed her first full-length show – which is making its Sydney debut at the Old Fitz later this year. We had a quick chat with her about writing plays, directing and yes, even Hamilton.
Hello! My name is Lucy, I am a 22 year old theatre maker from Western Australia, currently living in Sydney. My field is writing, directing and producing new Australian works, as I am currently doing with my play, Fracture, which will be part of The Late Night Program at the Old Fitz this August.
What was the first play you saw when you were younger?
While it wasn’t the first, I do have great memories of seeing my older sister’s high school production of Oliver, which I remember distinctly for the awesome fat suit she got to wear as Oliver’s nurse.
Your career has included acting, directing, producing and writing. Which of these roles excites you most and which do you find most challenging?
When it comes to writing, producing and directing, it is the trio of roles that really excites me. My training has been in performance so I tackle playwriting from the view of a director. I imagine every image of the play and hear each voice out loud. It therefore feels part of the process to then bring these works to the stage as a producer and director, as I have such strong opinions about the directions in which the play could go and a final vision that can be achieved. Of course, doing all three at once means you run the risk of losing your sense of perspective and it can be hard to distinguish right choices from wrong. This is why having a strong sense of collaboration in the room between my cast, creatives and production team is so important to me, as it keeps me open minded to new ideas.
When it comes to acting, because the characters I write have so much of me inside them, I do often daydream about playing them myself. Working on this production of Fracture however really cemented for me that with such incredible and willing talent living in the theatre community of Sydney, taking these roles for myself would only be of detriment to the work. Although I would never rule out the possibility, while performers such as Kate Cheel and Contessa Treffone continue to work beside me, I do not see myself getting back on the stage in the near future.
You’ve studied in Perth, started your theatre company (New Ghosts Theatre Company) there and Fracture premiered in Perth in 2015. What is one of your favourite things about living in Perth?
My favourite thing about living in Perth was being near my family and old friends. I’m very close to my mum, and although I still talk to her regularly, I do miss her and the rest of my family being in Sydney. However, I do love Sydney life, and with my partner Brandon and sister Alicia (who played the fat nurse in high school) both living here that support and love are never far away.
How are you feeling about making your Sydney debut?
As you can imagine, both nervous and excited! I have worked on the script for three years now so I’m itching to put it on stage. I premiered an earlier version of the script last year in Perth and assistant directed it under director and mentor Joe Lui, which I feel really prepared me for this production. This will be my big directing debut, which is a daunting prospect, but with such an incredible, talented and supportive team of cast, creatives and crew working on it with me it is impossible to not feel positive about the final outcome!
Fracture focuses on Charlie living in a rundown apartment with his roommates. Do you have any funny roommate stories to share?
I’ve been living with my three wonderful housemates since I moved to Sydney in December 2015. They are like a second family to me, and other than the few days where we all got pretty convinced that we had a ghost, it’s all been smooth sailing. So no funny stories unfortunately! With everyone in the house an artist of some sort there is a constant creative buzz with lots of play reading nights to share our new works with each other. Definitely couldn’t ask for a better place to live!
Fracture is a psychological drama. What is one other psychological drama that you love (movie, play, book etc.)?
Nicki Bloom’s Tender. I was privileged enough to have Nicki Bloom as a dramaturge over the last six months of script development on Fracture, and this was the play that really drew me to her to begin with.
Tell us a show you’d love to direct.
I’d love to take a crack at Annie Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation, which is a play all set in an adult drama class. She is one of my favourite writers, and as a drama student and teacher myself, I see so much humour in this script that I would love to put it on a Sydney stage.
Tell us a role you’d love to play.
The dense language and strong characters of Shakespeare make them beloved and desired roles by many performers, and I am definitely no exception. If I were to indulge myself by returning to the stage, I would love to play the role of Hamlet’s Ophelia, who in my opinion holds some of the most exciting scenes in theatre history.
What’s the best show you’ve seen this year?
Hands down The Whale at the Old Fitz. I would have given it a standing ovation if I hadn’t been embarrassed by the sound of my wailing as I drowned myself in tears, which didn’t stop for about half an hour after the play ended. I’d never been so emotionally affected by a piece of theatre in my life, and it really set a benchmark for the kind of work I want to be creating. Such an incredible new work combined with a strong team of cast and creatives.
What’s a show you’d love to see but haven’t had the chance?
Hamilton! I’m sickly obsessed. I know all the songs off by heart and listen to the soundtrack almost daily.
Do you have any theatre rituals or superstitions?
For me, theatre rituals and superstitions are more of a community thing rather than a personal thing I say “chookas” and “break a leg” to performers rather than “good luck” because it is respectful, rather than because I think it could influence the outcome of the show. Saying that, I think I am secretly more superstitious than I would have myself admit, so maybe there’s more to it than that…
What TV show are you obsessed with at the moment?
I’m slowly ploughing my way through the latest season of Orange is the New Black… a great after-a-long-day-at-rehearsals kind of watch.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’ve just finished off reading the play Night of January 16th by Ayn Rand which was a very interesting read! Although first published in 1934, I think that the questions the play explores, forcing the audience to question personal bias and how this can conflict with rational judgement, makes it continually relevant in 2016. After reading it I just wanted to discuss it with everyone who would listen to defend my point of view about the ending of the play, and how wonderful it is when theatre can do that! I would definitely add this to the list of plays that I would love to direct.
What’s the most-played song on your iTunes?
End of Time by Beyonce. That was a surprise to me too…
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Although I hope to one-day work as part of a larger company, I currently have the freedom of an independent, freelance artist that allows me to work on what ever project I like. As a result, I am incredibly passionate about all the works I create as I am making them for myself. They are what keeps me up late and night and what pulls me out of bed in the morning.
Tell us about someone who inspires you.
One of the big inspirations who I’m working with at the moment is an incredible Australian theatre maker, Danielle Baynes. I invited Danielle to a play reading of another work I am developing a few months ago, unaware of her own talent as a playwright. After being overwhelmed by the detail and depth of her thoughts in the feedback of the script, I asked her to come on board as my mentor and dramaturge. I have been working with her since then, and am constantly appreciative of the amount of time she was willingly given me and my work, despite her own busy schedule. I was recently lucky enough to see the Sydney premiere of her own work which she wrote and performed, Bicycle, a very fun and inspiring feminist piece of theatre.
What is one thing you find challenging about the Australian theatre industry?
Australia has recently received major funding cuts to our small to medium companies, leaving over 50% unfunded and with a 1300 arts workers expected to lose their jobs. These are the companies that produce and cultivate emerging artists, like myself, some of which will become the leading artistic faces of the next generation. I strongly urge everyone concerned by this event to go to http://www.istandwiththearts.com/ and sign your support in calling the federal government to action in restoring these funds.
What is one thing that excites you about the Australian theatre industry?
There are some great conversations that are just starting to begin in Australia regarding gender parity and colour blind casting that, although still have a long way to go, are very exciting to see blossoming and catching in the large, medium and small companies alike. WITS is a fantastic new program starting to support and celebrate women in theatre in Sydney, as is the Lotus Playwriting Project started at Playwriting Australia to develop more Asian-Australian stories for our stage. Many companies are now employing 50% quotas for women artists in their application rounds and are encouraging casting diversity, which are
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
The advice I received from Perth’s Blue Room Theatre (who also gave me the support and skills to do so) to invest time into producing my own work. Australia has so many extremely talented, emerging performers, directors and playwrights alike who are struggling to get noticed by production companies, which is stopping them from putting on work and developing their skills. Last year I chose to produce the first production of Fracture myself. From the team that I assembled, I was the youngest and least experienced in the group. You can only imagine how much this improved the work and my skills as a theatre maker! That would be the biggest advice that I would pass on to any other young, emerging theatre artist – don’t wait around to be noticed. Find (or create!) a play that you are passionate about and make it happen.
Fracture is at the Old Fitz Theatre from the 2nd August, book tickets now to catch this exciting new work from an emerging playwright at the Old Fitz website.