“A daughter goes home to take care of her dad and she can’t stop masturbating.”
That’s American playwright Clare Barron describing her play You Got Older on YouTube.
Written in 2014, the play sees a woman, Mae, returning home to her father who is dying of cancer. It’s written from life. Barron wrote many scenes in her father’s hospital room.
She wrote purely for therapy with no thought about what she might do with them afterwards, a process she describes as “survival writing.” At the same time she was also writing raunchy scenes involving a cowboy that were inspired by romance novels.
Barron became fascinated by the contradiction of Mae having such a close relationship with her father, but also having a side of herself she was desperate to keep secret from him.
The scenes with the cowboy have allowed for some mischievous shenanigans in Claudia Barrie’s rehearsal room ahead of the Sydney premiere of You Got Older at Kings cross Theatre.
“Mae and the Cowboy …” says Barrie. “That’s just … well, you’ll have to come and see.”
These saucy moments have provided light relief during the rehearsal of what is a deeply personal play about a woman forced to deal with the mortality of her parents. For someone in this position, there is a feeling that “the tables have turned and maybe it’s the child’s turn to look after the parents,” Barrie explains, adding that the play is exploring both sides of the generational divide. “This play is so much for the parents,” she says.
Barrie’s quiet confidence about her production is understandable given the success of last year’s Dry Land, a frank and brilliantly acted staging that was nominated for Best Independent Theatre Production at the 2017 Sydney Theatre Awards.
It was the audience response to the play that made the strongest impression on Barrie, however. “The phone calls, emails and conversations I had with and from people was astounding (and) deeply humbling,” she says.
Barrie’s company Mad March Hare has amassed an impressive body of work since debuting with Baby with The Bathwater at the Sydney Fringe Festival in 2011. But despite her company’s success, Claudia is realistic about the challenges that come with making independent theatre in Sydney. “I have a strong say in what I work on. But in the end it’s still up to the venues and resident companies to choose from what I propose,” she says. “Getting a work up under indie conditions ain’t easy.
“But I don’t see any point in whinging about what I don’t have. I choose to do this and tell stories I am passionate about. I have no regrets.”
– Ashley Walker