Meet our 2016 Artists: ARTHUR

ARTHUR | Bright World
ARTHUR | Bright World

In 2016, Theatre Works will pilot a new Access All Areas – Residency Model. And we’re delighted to announce, ARTHUR is our first cab off the rank. Theatre Works first worked with ARTHUR on the highly acclaimed season of Cut Snake which sold out and went on to win VCE Best Drama Production in 2013.

In 2016 ARTHUR will take over the Theatre Works space for six weeks in order to develop their new production Bright World exploring the story of William Cooper and his historic protest against the Nazi persecution of European Jews in 1938. Read on to meet  ARTHUR collaborators and Bright World playwrights Andrea James and Elise Hearst.

Tell us about your show in one sentence
Elise –
Two ladies (Andrea and Elise), two cultures (Aboriginal and Jewish), lots of hair (human and canine), and one hero (William Cooper), travel through past, present, and future in the quest to find understanding, identity and legacy.
Andrea – That’d be right, Elise always gets in first and nails it, I should learn to write more quickly.

How’s the experience and process of working with a co-writer?
Elise –
Andrea and I had never met before and I haven’t worked on many co-written productions so jumping into this project felt both exciting and nerve-wracking. It has been an uplifting and challenging experience, mostly because we are tackling issues of race and within that, Andrea and my personal experiences. We have had to confront our own prejudices and part of the process has been about overcoming them and speaking to them. This has been at times, emotional, a bit icky, and hysterically funny. We have found many points of difference but also many similarities, and ultimately I have had a lot of fun sparring with Andrea on the page and on the stage. I am really excited about this show and abut our collaboration.

Andrea – I’ve done this sort of gig a few times lately and I always approach these projects with great caution.  I am immensely proud of my Aboriginal heritage and I make theatre to continue the songlines.  There’s a lot at stake, culturally, politically, spiritually and creatively and, frankly, if I represent this story wrong, my mob will lynch me.  I would never have had a conversation with Elise if it were not for the brave gesture towards Jewish people in 1938 by William Cooper and the Aborigines Advancement League. Elise and I have terrified and intimidated each other, made each other laugh; and led each other along brave and bizarre paths of interrogation and creative expression to honour the legacy of William Cooper and give thanks to our peoples survival and resilience. We’ve come to a heartfelt understanding of one another and despite our obvious cultural and class differences, Elise and I both want a better world for our children (and our dogs). We’ve made a play together, and I think we’ve each made a new friend.  Let’s see.

How did you feel about performing in your work as well as writing it?
Elise –
Performing as ourselves in this play is really liberating. I’m finding that having conversations with each other, even if its about our deepest darkest prejudices, by speaking them aloud it dissipates the truth of the prejudice and frees us up to explore other conversations, providing a space for hope and a brighter future. We have developed quite a comical two-hander act which I think audiences will love. It mainly comprises of me saying the wrong thing all the time and apologising a lot.

Andrea – There’s nothing like a director saying to an actor “just be yourself”, but somehow there’s a lot more at stake here. Elise and I have a responsibility to represent our mobs and we’ve had to navigate the murky waters of generational oppression and resistance to get to this place.  I’ve come to the stage kicking and screaming and I’ve had to overcome my dislike of writers writing themselves into their work – let alone acting in the play as well!  We want to tell this story in the best way possible and we’re both coming at this from a spirit of play. Despite my reservations, I am looking forward to the challenge.

Bright World Season: 13 – 30 April, 2016
Click here for tickets and information

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