I have a story to tell. Something close to my heart.
A story about women of ‘une certain age‘, as the French would say, about four female friends in their sixties, about their loyalties, their love for each other, and a choice they must make.
And it has to be a play.
Why? Because the theatre is storytelling at its best. It’s where real magic happens, where the audience suspends belief for however much time they are sitting in the auditorium. It’s what excited you as a child – the pantomimes, the ballet – and it’s where I started my career as a writer, with the politically incorrect Hitler had a Mummy Too (with Valerie Bader and Gillian Hyde) before being whisked off into the world of screenwriting – a career that spanned years, writing everything from A Country Practice to an award-winning mini-series, novels, plays and a feature film.
War babies aren’t boring old farts and they don’t wear twin-sets and pearls.
Think Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Janis. They were born when their fathers were away at war, when class sizes were small. This was before TV and the internet. It was a time of innocence, of no sex education, where the world was seen through filtered lenses. Empire Day (not Australia Day) was celebrated with a rousing song at school assembly, ‘There’ll Always be an England’.
The choices for working class girls at school were Domestic or Commercial. You learned how to cook and clean for your man, or to become a secretary (where you could meet a man, then cook and clean for him). University was for the boys. And then to experience the swinging sixties with sex drugs and rock and roll. What a time they had.
Wild Thing depicts four such women, four lifelong friends. The play centres on a weekend away in the country. There’s fun, laughter and reminiscing – and when a bit of dope-smoking loosens tongues, secrets are revealed and all hell breaks loose. Things will change forever.
I organised its first reading at the Writers Centre, with actor friends. Then I knew it could actually ‘come off the page’.
I took their suggestions – well, not all of them – and re-wrote and honed. After a few glasses of wine, I was accepting awards and considering a Pulitzer prize.
My agent sent it around to various theatres.
‘Sorry,’ said the theatres. ‘We are trying to attract a younger audience’.
So the play slid into the bottom drawer where it gestated, changed colour. Mobile phones were added. Seven characters become six. But the thing is, a play is just words on paper until someone brings it to life.
I took a revised script to a reading at NIDA, with a cast including Di Smith, Valerie Bader, Katrina Foster, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Jean Kittson and the late, wonderful Penny Cook. People came. Producers even. They laughed, they cried.
And though I still believe that only the Drama Theatre at the Opera House is suitable for this work, one day I walked into the Flight Path Theatre in Marrickville. It was like coming home again. Like the Stables, or Nimrod in the early days, where it all began. Where dreams were born.
And now, with our wonderful director Kim Hardwick and the amazing team working with her – including actors Di Adams, Di Smith, Katrina Foster, Helen O’Connor, Lewis Fitz-Gerald and Phillip D’Ambrosio – we are up and running.
Though I’ve already seen the play come to life at the read-through, I am still laughing and I am crying even though I know what’s coming. It is funnier and more poignant than I could ever have believed. It just needs an audience now.
Wild Thing plays at Flight Path Theatre, Marrickville, March 2-19.