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In Conversation with Keith Gow

"I want people to talk about what nostalgia and tradition means to them and how it can hold us back from trying new things." We catch up with 'Shakespeare Aliens' writer and producer Keith Gow about his latest play, 'Turn, Turn, Turn' premiering at Explosives Factory this September.

Q: In a nutshell, what is Turn, Turn, Turn about?

A: Turn, Turn, Turn is about four people thrown together on a crappy space ship – leaving one planet for the next and hoping to get there first. Top thousand, at least. But their in-fighting might slow them down or, at worst, get them sent back to a dying planet with no real prospects for their future.

Q: What are some key themes you wanted to explore in this new work?

A: The play is about nostalgia and tradition. We all have chapters in our lives that we close and move on from. Sometimes we walk away from something. Sometimes we run. This is about that in macro – what is it to leave your whole life behind? A whole planet?

But even if we are leaving the planet for a good reason – it’s dying, after all – can tradition or nostalgia hold us back from embracing the future? The characters in the play are all hoping to make the next world better but better for whom? For themselves or for everyone?

The play is also about the relative privilege of the characters, too. Their individual lives were so different on Earth Seven; they aren’t really leaving the same planet behind. And their desperation to make it to the next world first drives them all to different drastic measures. But is it an attempt to win or just an attempt to break away from rules and regulations?

Q: Can you tell us a bit about the collaborators you have assembled for this project?

A: I am working with director Renee Palmer for the fourth time. Every project we’ve collaborated on has been different: a short play, a collection of monologues, an immersive work and now a full-length sit-down show. Renee always brings my characters to life in such a rich and exciting way. My work is dialogue-heavy and Renee’s work is usually movement- based and together we find a way to have the best of both worlds.

Phoebe Taylor is our wonderful Dramaturg. She has helped me from very early on in the development of this script and we spent a lot of time crafting it before rehearsals began. But once we had actors in the room, we also found time to play and revise then as well and Phoebe was essential is helping me tighten this into the intense experience Turn is going to be.

We’re excited to be working with Melanie Audrey and Sarah Hartnel again, after collaborating with them both on two earlier shows, Never Ending Night and Strange Junctures respectively. I’m also thrilled to have Eben Rotjer on board this show, after seeing him in Renee’s PhD project, Women’s Shout at Melbourne Fringe 2022. Renee and I are so happy we found Sodi Murphy-Shrives during our auditions, as they are bringing a fresh and vital new vibe to the piece.

Q: What has been a rehearsal highlight so far?

A: Rehearsals are such a fertile ground for discovery and collaboration. Each week there has been new and exciting revelations. The first full run-through was a little rough but it felt so good to see one scene after another and find how close we were to the finished product.

The other great moment for me, though, was pulling apart the climactic scene for the actors to understand all the rapidly-changing character positions. It’s a complicated scene. A lot happens in a few pages. Power changes, reversals, reveals – all stuffed into a few minutes. And to realise everything holds together and the actors have found new layers to play is one of the best feelings a playwright can have.

Q: What kind of conversations do you hope Turn, Turn, Turn would ignite amongst audiences post-show?

A: I want people to talk about what nostalgia and tradition means to them and how it can hold us back from trying new things. There is a comfort in doing things the way we’ve always done them, but that can hold us back – both as people and society. The real heart of the play is how looking back and following rules can keep us from getting anywhere, even if we’re flying fast through space.

I think a lot of us lead very busy lives and it feels like we’re achieving things when we’re just existing in a routine. How can we break out of our routine for ourselves but also to help others? If we examine our own privilege, we might find that nostalgia is blinding us to the pain of others. And by following tradition, we are excluding people with different life experiences or different backgrounds.

I want people to think about what world we are leaving behind for the next generation, too. Following rules of the old world (burning fossil fuels, marginalising trans people, being racist, sexist, classist, etc, etc, etc.) means we can’t really build a new world. And that’s the centre of the characters’ dilemma – how do we make a new world, if it’s built on the foundations of the last? TURN, TURN, TURN

by Keith Gow



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