"I’d love to ignite a discussion on how microaggressions can be part of culture that contributes to a dynamic where some feel they have the right to dominate and belittle others, and how to be willing to call out behaviour like that." We catch up with Laura Jackson, writer and performer in the upcoming season of 'The Culture' presented by Powersuit Productions at Explosives Factory, 7-17 June.
Q: Without spoiling anything, what is The Culture about in a nutshell?
A: The Culture is about two best friends, navigating the pitfalls and sometimes dangers of finding love. As a woman and as a gay man of colour they’re up against some forces in the world outside their safe little apartment. They have a deep, enduring friendship, which, sure… could be a little codependent! But it’s that love that allows them to call the other out, to speak truth, and to be the other’s greatest cheer leader. They’re able to push each others' buttons and make each other laugh (hard!)
Friendship. Complex, cheeky, beautiful, supporting, challenging, familiar friendship. That’s what it’s about in a nutshell.
Q: What was the inspiration for writing The Culture? Is it reflective of your own experiences?
A: I wrote a draft of this piece a number of years ago back in 2015 when Rosie Batty became a mouthpiece for domestic and family violence, because in a stereotyped world she was an ‘unlikely’ victim. Highly educated, well spoken - she outlined the fact that violence does not discriminate - it is borne by women of all classes, races, ages. In the intervening years, I wish I could say that the play has been rendered totally irrelevant, but during Covid19 lockdowns when women were locked in with their abusers, domestic violence in Australia spiked.
The character of Katie is outspoken, educated and cheeky. As the actor who plays her, I didn’t want to depict her as a victim. She herself has to reconcile who she thought she was, with how others now see her. She has experienced something traumatic, and yet she remains her brave, opinionated, cheeky self. That feels important.
The story isn’t completely my own experience - bits and pieces of Katie come from me, some from the experiences of people in my life. Largely though, the thing that I believe makes me enjoy as an actor is that I live in a state of deep empathy - I feel things strongly, and can (sometimes to my own detriment) take on the experience of women globally. That can mean I watch a news story and I have trouble letting it go. Some of that certainly filters in my writing.
Here’s the thing - it’s funny!! All of this makes the play sound heavy - and we’re not afraid to tackle some tough themes, but expect to laugh out loud!
Q: How has it been being both the playwright and actor in this production?
A: It’s been wonderful. I’m really proud of being able to take an idea all the way to realisation. At some point I had to take the writer hat off and step into the actor shoes. It’s difficult - when is a piece of writing every truly FINISHED? Even now, heading to Melbourne for our 6th city on the tour, there are things that we could tweak with the script. However, it’s grown, and morphed and become nuanced as we’ve performed it again and again.
I’m beyond proud of the team we’ve put together whose talents have combined to great a hilarious and heartfelt story.
Q: Tell us about the experience of touring your work.
A: We started off in a tiny little theatre in NYC - a 40 seater, a little run-down, but right in the heart of the theatre district. A bit of a bucket list moment! We headed to Wellington next and it was really exciting to see how much an NZ audience enjoyed the work. We started to get more and more laughs and had a couple of really rave reviews there. We then went to Adelaide and Hobart, and have been able to tweak the set and performance to suit different spaces and demographics. Sydney was a pretty special homecoming, and our networks and the public really showed up for us. And we are so excited to be wrapping up our tour with Melbourne! We hope you’ll come along, laugh hard, and maybe feel a little of what the characters are feeling. And we hope you’ll stick around in the foyer and tell us what you think!
Q: What kind of conversations do you hope a work like The Culture will ignite amongst theatregoers?
A: A buzzing post-show foyer is my favourite part. I love to hear people say they connected with the characters, that they felt for them or that bits of their experience and relationship felt familiar. I hope we can have conversations about how to support our friends navigating relationships. And I’d love to ignite a discussion on how microaggressions can be part of culture that contributes to a dynamic where some feel they have the right to dominate and belittle others, and how to be willing to call out behaviour like that. As the recent DV campaign says: ‘violence against women: let’s stop it at the start.’ THE CULTURE by Laura Jackson 7-17 June | Explosives Factory BOOK TICKETS