Sorry God, you were relegated to Fleur Kilpatrick's laptop trash can. “I very briefly wrote in God in one draft, God said about three lines and I wrote God out again”, the award-winning playwright tells Beat of her latest work.
Bible stories have captured her imagination in recent times, with Kilpatrick currently writing her way through a trilogy of plays about religion and dogma. The first, The City They Burned, was inspired by the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and performed as part of the 2014 Melbourne Fringe and then the Brisbane Festival last year. Continuing her relationship with independent theatre company Attic Erratic, the second piece is called Blessed and will be making its world premiere as part of the Poppy Seed Theatre Festival early next month.
Now into its second year, Poppy Seed TheatreFestival invests financially and artistically
in selected independent artists with Attic Erratic's Blessed being chosen alongside Three Birds Theatre's LadyCake, Hotel Now's What’s Yours Is Mine and F. by Riot Stage. These four new works – all recognised for being ambitious and among the best local talent – will be presented over five weeks from Tuesday November 8 to Sunday December 11.
Being chosen for Poppy Seed adds to the honours Blessed has already received, being shortlisted for the Max Afford Playwrights' Award (Playwriting Australia) and recipient of the Jill Blewett Playwright's Award (Adelaide Festival). “I was so frightened of this play being another one of those Australian plays that has won a major literary award, that has had multiple paid developments and then is still sitting in a drawer in my office. I'm immensely relieved that someone is actually putting this thing on and giving it a life,” says Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick says she started writing three years ago and found her two protagonists flowed out of her. “The characters arrived on my page very full, very fully formed. I wrote two scenes back to back in one day and they’ve changed a lot – this play has been through years of editing – but those two walked out pretty much as is, in one beautiful five hour sitting,” she says.
“There are biblical references throughout but who these beings actually are is a bit of a reveal, but I think it’s fair to say the women's stories in the bible are often the stories of women just accepting their fate, a woman being told to do things, told that they are virtuous or that they are not virtuous and having to go along with that. I looked through a lot of art as well and looked at this woman who sits there, head bowed, eyes downcast, bathed in this holy glow for centuries and I thought, 'I want to see who this woman would be if she looked directly at you and asserted herself.' ”
Kilpatrick was also inspired by Jim Cartwright's 1986 play Road and, having been raised by a mother who was a social worker, the reality of poverty. “My other question was what does a contemporary Australian play about poverty look like and how would those characters escape?” Performers Olivia Monticciolo and Matt Hickey bring the two to life, and the story spans meeting them as 15-year-olds first falling in love to meeting them again at 30. “Little has changed, that's what I've tried to get across, that for 15 years they've sat around and been angry and are now trying to find a way out,” she says.
Despite tackling the darker side of society, she says there’s also humour in the piece. “There's an immense love between the two characters and it’s very funny and it’s very biting and nasty, even when the big revelation comes, it’s in quite an offhanded way. I sat in multiple readings of this show and I think laughter is a very big way the audience have communicated with us so far, but it’s still dark, it’s still heavy,” she says.
While Blessed marks her second collaboration with Attic Erratic, it's her fourth with director and producer Danny Delahunty. “I'm really proud of this team and I love that I have this ongoing collaboration with Danny and that I have so much trust in this director and team, it's a lovely feeling.”
By Joanne Brookfield