Interview with Patrick McCarthy | Playwright Grief and the Lullaby

Patrick McCarthy

This week marks the opening of three new plays as part of FLIGHT Festival of New Writing. First up we have Patrick McCarthy’s Grief and the Lullaby. Patrick directed Tom Holloway’s Love Me Tender at Theatre Works back in 2013.  Prior to this, his co-direction of author/ illustrator Shaun Tan’s The Arrival saw his team take out the Melbourne Fringe People’s Choice Award.

Grief and the Lullaby is the first work for Patrick’s new company Fabricated Rooms. The play is unique in that the action takes place over one continuous scene. We steal a moment with Patrick during production week to talk more about this moving portrayal of grief and family relationships.

How would you describe your play in one sentence?
Grief and the Lullaby explores how our relationships with people change as we move through our twenties and into our thirties, and the difficulty of reconnecting in the wake of a tragedy.

What motivated you to write Grief and The Lullaby as a single scene?
I think the experience of watching something unfold in real-time can help create a sense of intimacy in the theatre. When you’re asking the audience to come with you to a place that’s quite emotionally dark, it can be helpful to eliminate the need for a lot of scene changes or jumps in the audience’s understanding of when and where we are. Instead, Grief and the Lullaby unfolds very gradually through a series of interconnected conversations, and the accumulative effect of this is hopefully quite powerful by the end of the play. This pace and energy also allows us to create a feeling of authenticity in the performances, and generates moments that are surprising and confronting.

Who is your favourite playwright and why?
Probably Will Eno. His work feels like the most accurate and insightful depiction of humanity at the moment. Beckett went okay too.

This play is the first work of your new theatre company Fabricated Rooms. What is your vision for this company?
I’ll be writing and directing each work that we make, but collaborating closely with a range of artists depending on the needs of the project. The aim is to create works that are entirely original in terms of the text (as opposed to adapting classics or doing plays from overseas), but to employ experimental devising and design methodologies in order to stretch the possibilities of what new-writing might look (or sound) like in our theatre.

You are directing this production. What is the difference for you between collaborating with a director and directing your own work?
There aren’t many writer-directors in Australian theatre. In fact, it’s often discouraged. I think this comes from a suspicion that playwrights try to protect their scripts from changes, which is a bit of an old cliche. It’s much more common in film for people to write and direct. I think one of the benefits is that you can leave space in the text for other material to enter in the rehearsal/production phase, whether that’s sequences devised with the cast or design driven moments. On a personal level, I really enjoy the experience of starting a project in my imagination, moving to a blank page, and then ultimately moving into a collaborative mode during rehearsals and production. This allows for a very holistic approach to the project.

Why do you write?
The writing phase of a project is always a lot of fun. I really enjoy the solitary nature of it, the private dreaming that goes on whilst trying to bring people and places to life through dialogue. I think this part of the theatre-making process is really important, as it allows for a period of creativity that’s not under the immense pressure of time that exists in a rehearsal room or a theatre. I’ve made work that’s purely devised in the past, but found that without the foundation of the writing process it felt quite unsupported.

Grief and the Lullaby Season: 14 – 23 August, 2015
Click here for tickets and information

Follow Patrick’s company – Fabricated Rooms here

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