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In Conversation with Future D. Fidel | La Belle Époque

"'La Belle Époque' means 'The Good Old Day'. I believe every generation does have their 'Good Old Days' that feels to have been a great time for them. The question I'm asking is 'When was the Good Old Days' for the Congolese."

In this week's backstage blog, we chat with Future D. Fidel, playwright and producer for the upcoming production La Belle Époque, a play comprised of interweaving narratives that combine to tell the story of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Playing at Theatre Works from 10 July to 20 July.

Without giving too much away, what is La Belle Époque about?

In a few words, La Belle Époque is a Black Australian love story of a Congolese man reconciling his present life in Australia with his heritage in the heart of Africa, where it's children are exploited in the West's scramble for the DRC's natural resources and minerals.

What inspired the creation and title of the play?

I drew some inspirations from my previous work Prize Fighter as well as the development of modern technology. I'm inspired by the way we now consume and access information on devices we carry in our pockets. "La Belle Époque" means "The Good Old Day". I believe every generation does have their "Good Old Days" that feels to have been a great time for them. The question I'm asking is "When was the Good Old Days" for the Congolese.

As the playwright and producer, how has it been to watch your words come to life on stage?

Every new work is always evolving. The process is hard but rewarding at the same time. It gives me a clear picture and better understanding as a playwright, hearing my words spoken out loud. It helps me know which part is working and which one is not. Being a producer, only means I need to be wearing different hats all the times. The reward is always walking into the rehearsal room and watching the script come to life from the work of the amazing cast and creative team we have on the project.

What have been some challenges in the writing, development, or producing process so far?

The biggest challenge is always when the cast and creatives expect the writer to know everything about a scene or even a character. The development process always requires asking a lot of question from everyone. Sometimes, I might not have the answers there and then, but maybe the actor needs it to better understand their character. That can become hard on the process if I'm not able to provide them with the tools they need to tell the story. I might write a scene because it's funny or sad but if it doesn't help push the story forward, then you can lose that scene entirely, which is a challenge. As a producer, it's important to make sure the right talents and creatives are attached to the project. Not only that, but also to make sure the project is progressing on time and ready for an audience on opening night.

Our biggest challenge has been not being able to secure enough funding to help the project with the tools it needs - paying the artists award rates, securing rehearsal spaces, marketing, etc... We were grateful to receive a grant from the Scanlon Foundation, however, we do still need a significant amount to cover a lot of things. We launched a crowd fundraising campaign on the Australian Cultural Fund under La Belle Epoque to help us raise more money.

What do you hope people talk about on their way home from seeing La Belle Époque?

We hope for the audience to engage in a conversation that involves meaningful outcomes. I hope that their drive home will be a good time for them to process what they've watched and be able to have hard but important conversations that bring change. I hope their conversation is about who they think would appreciate watching the show. I believe La Belle Époque is a show that would keep the audience talking for many months if not years to come. 


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