Mother is on the VCE Theatre Studies Playlist. We are meeting with students all over the state on the tour who may be writing about it in their exams. Here are some questions from teacher Liz Bastian at Billanook College posed to me about Mother on behalf of her students who saw the show at Healesville. These may be helpful to others so I post them here in that spirit.
Liz: Is there a particular theatrical style that was either implied in the play script, or that you chose to implement in your direction, or a combination of elements from different styles?
Matt: I try really hard to not come into any project with a preconceived notion of style. I talk to the playwright and usually ask them to attend the first reading and ask lots of questions. I am always interested in serving their vision. I have my reasons for wanting to direct a play: I will be intrigued by a character or even just a line. A little window into the world of the play that catches my attention. I was involved in the creation of this work: not the writing of it but a conversation between Daniel, Noni and myself at the outset lead to the script and now the production. If I was pressed to name a style I would probably go with magic realism: what Christie experiences is real and she performs in a naturalistic style but is able to control and evoke the history of her life in the play. I work generatively and allow the actor to find their character and world slowly and carefully. I read the script a lot in preparation, look at images, listen to music, dream about it, talk about it with a small group of people (usually the creative team, some trusted colleagues and with the actor(s) endlessly) and then I don’t read the script once I start rehearsing because I want it to be like talking and to receive it like most of the audience will.
What were the key themes of the play?
Judgement, loss, addiction, motherhood, madness, loneliness, isolation, truth, responsibility. All big concepts. Beautfully wrought by Daniel.
When was the play set and where? (we think its set in contemporary times in an abandoned alley or open space but are keen to have that confirmed).
The play is set in an urban environment like the one you are thinking about. We feel it is Melbourne based on the references in the play to Upfield, Brunswick, Collingwood. We collected most of the props in the streets of Melbourne: all were found objects, discarded by someone and like the ones that Christie might have found herself.
In your direction, who did you envisage that Christie was talking to? We noticed that she didn’t break the fourth wall at all so we inferred that she was talking to herself or an imagined person and using the ‘junk’ to delineate the different ‘scenes’ for her story.
Christie is talking to many people but she is alone. She is beyond the notion of talking to herself, she simply retells this story each night to try to make sense of it. She uses her voice to engage her memories. She doesn’t need an audience. She just needs to try to work out what happened to her. And Beau. There is always Beau.