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In Conversation with Laura McKenzie

How often do you experience theatre seated around a big dining table with the action happening around you? Laura McKenzie's premiere of SOCIAL DANCE offers a uniquely immersive communal night out with lashings of "high stakes and clashing personalities".

Q: Without spoiling anything, what Social Dance, about in a nutshell?

A: Social Dance is a very silly, communal experience. I hope that being at this performance feels like watching Elon Musks’ rocket explode. Or like hearing Prince Harry use the word “todger”. I want it to conjure the same satisfaction of Jeff Bezos’ divorce settlement or when people wouldn’t shake Scott Morrison's hand. This play leans in to how the tribulations of the affluent and upper class can be the joie de vivre of the masses. I’ve tried to distill this delight and serve it to our audience at a smaller, dinner-setting-scale.

Audiences will sit at one big, round dining table along with our five actors who play the opulent Spittle family and their French exchange teacher Patrice. They are attending instalment 1 of the 10 Part Lifestyle Series “Etiquette in the Modern Age with the Spittles.” Suzie Spittle, mother and doting hostess, hopes that tonight will go perfectly so that the audience will sign up to the full program. High stakes and clashing personalities will breed chaos and absurdity, creating an up-close spectacle for the audience to experience together.

Q: What was the inspiration for writing Social Dance?

A: I can think of three seedlings that grew and merged to form Social Dance:

  1. My memory of a long and elaborate dinner I went to when I was a teenager, and when a few people said they had to leave early the host cried. I secretly found it very funny and wanted to capture that feeling.

  2. Later on in University, I was exploring writing immersive theatre ideas including beginning to write a play that took place around a park picnic table.

  3. As I was writing the script last year, I also drew from and exaggerated some real-life characters, encounters and themes I’ve experienced across my time in university and in the white-collar industries. It has been cathartic to capture some moments I have found to be a bit ridiculous and hold that silliness up to the light in this play.

Q: How has it been being both the playwright and director for this production?

A: My directorial approach was very much motivated by creating and fleshing out my vision as the playwright of Social Dance. It has been such a pleasure to take a script I wrote alone and develop it with these five, incredibly talented actors. We took time to build characters and rapport early in the rehearsal process, which gave us solid foundations to play with my first draft. We then had 2 test audiences along the way, to provide some objectivity and hone the narrative. I have been so grateful to the cast who have given me wide breadth and patience to write and rewrite this play. They have brought such playful, curious energy to their characters and have constantly given me inspiration and joy to develop the script and its performance with them.

Q: Tell us a bit about the creative team you are working with.

A: 5 incredible actors: Anna Burgess, Heather Valentine, Pascale Constance, Sam Zawadi and Andrew Hwang. Each with different training and experience that spans across screen and stage, improvisation, sketch comedy and dramatic works. As I don’t have any background in acting, I have felt so lucky to learn from each of them along the way. It is so impressive to me how each of them have held down such unwieldy characters and an absurd storyline. I think this play has only come together so well because of this professional yet silly group who really got it.

I have also been absolutely carried by producer Takoda Torres who has faced the seemingly endless to-do list with such a cool headed, can-do attitude and has been an absolute rock for me in getting this show up off the ground. Matching that energy and swooping in to support Takoda and I is Eliza, our assistant producer who has also been churning out awesome promotional content.

Finally, audio-visual mastermind Tim Palstra has been delivering on all things music, sound effects and image/video content for the show. He has been a strong enabler of my silly ideas and has the perfect mix of skills to execute them! A true godsend.

Q: What have you most enjoyed about the development and rehearsal process so far?

A: Collaboration and connection! I have loved learning from this talented creative team, colliding brain waves, yes-anding and problem solving. The sense of connection I have felt through developing the storyline and characters is something I hope will also extend out to the audience: I want them to feel brought into a communal, collective experience around the table each night.

Q: What kind of conversations do you hope a work like Social Dance will ignite amongst theatregoers?

A: After viewing Social Dance I expect all theatregoers will be capable of impressive, high-brow conversations and will be eager to demonstrate their new conversational skills straight away by expertly:

  • discussing how school was today;

  • unpacking politics, finance and current affairs;

  • sharing their most significant romantic encounter;

  • giving a nuanced review of a movie, a film or a flick;

  • having conversations completely signed with cutlery;

  • expressing a desire to immediately invest in the Spittles’ full life-style coaching program.

Maybe then, a few days or weeks afterwards, I think it would be really cool if people also scoffed to themselves when they think back to the show. Or if they say to the person they saw it with: "hey - that show, Social Dance, was pretty whacky wasn't it?" and their friend will say "yeah, it was" and then they kiss. SOCIAL DANCE by Laura McKenzie 21 June - 1 July | Explosives Factory BOOK TICKETS


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