This month, Rogue Projects returns to St Kilda with Katie Pollock's Hilarious, Heartfelt and Revealing monologue, ROUGH TRADE at Explosives Factory! We spoke with Katie, playwright and performer extraordinaire, about the inspiration behind the work and what it means to perform it.
Q: Without spoiling anything, how would you describe Rough Trade if you were speaking with a best friend?
A: You know how when something really shit happens in your life and you’re like why? Why me? Why this now? And then you think back and try to work out all the little things that went incrementally wrong until BLAM, here you are staring into the mouth of the black hole? And your friend who is much wiser and has more spoons than you goes babe, open your eyes, it’s because of the patriarchy … or capitalism, I forget which. Also would you like to go halves on owning a duck? It’s like that.
Q: Do you recall the moment that inspired you to write this new work?
A: Writers are the ultimate hoarders – we hang onto ideas for years, in case they come in handy one day. I had been ‘collecting’ trades from the Rough Trade Facebook group because they were just so brilliant, and I think it slowly crept up on me that I had to write about the group and the people who made it such a strange and wondrous place. Was it the day someone asked for dildos that they could fling out of their trebuchet? That time a lesbian couple were looking to trade for a sperm donor with specific First Nations heritage? Or maybe it was the infamous goat exchange. Who can say?
As a young adult I spent quite a lot of time doing outreach stuff with people experiencing homelessness. I have vivid memories of hearing people’s stories about life’s twists and turns and how a series of small incidents had left them in this place they never expected to be. ‘I didn’t think this would be me,’ some said. ‘It could be you.’ That really stayed with me. So I guess this play has been building for a lifetime.
Q: How has it been for you being both the writer and performer in Rough Trade?
A: It’s been a real challenge. I haven’t performed on stage since I did acting classes in the late 90s, so about 25 years – yikes! People say oh it doesn’t matter if you forget the lines because you wrote them so you can just make something up, but it really does matter to me. I think of myself as a writer first and foremost so when I fluff or drop a line I get really annoyed that a delicate link has been broken. Despite the apparent easy conversational tone of the play, it’s actually very carefully wrought, so a small moment missed early in the piece lessens the payoff at the end. There’s a lot of metaphor going on, if you pay attention. I already knew actors do a hard job but this has given me a new-found appreciation for the amazing work they do.
Q: What has been a highlight about performing Rough Trade so far?
A: When we did the show in Woy Woy, someone left two bags of groceries with Front of House for me.
Q: What kind of conversations do you hope Rough Trade would ignite amongst theatregoers?
A: It’s a provocation as much as a conversation. I hope it will inspire audiences to think twice about how they view other people and potentially judge their situation or life choices. If people want to trade sex toys, let them. I’d also like audiences to imagine the show as a musical with giant singing, dancing dildos high-kicking across the stage … and if anyone wants to help make that happen they should look me up. We can discuss it over a glass of rosé.