We chat with writer + performer Myfanwy Hocking about 'How To Be a Person When the World Is Ending' premiering at Theatre Works as part of Melbourne Fringe Festival.
How did you come up with the idea?
The year was 2021. I was undertaking my Master of Theatre (Writing) at the VCA, and we had just been told that at 8pm that evening, we would be plunged into yet another lockdown. Everybody went to Blondie Bar in Southbank and (literally) cried into their beers. I trammed home from the bar, strangers appeared heartbroken, and it was completely silent. Suffice to say, things were looking a little bleak. Over the course of this period, I experienced what some might call: the Big Sad. Live theatre felt dead, we couldn’t see our friends, and Bo Burnham’s ‘Inside’ came out and gave my generation a collective breakdown. Before you fret, dear reader: this show is not COVID theatre.
How To Be a Person When the World Is Ending is inspired by loneliness and heartache. It captures the essence of hurt that our generation is constantly grappling with; trying to exist in an expansive way whilst being told the world as we know it is catapulting toward destruction, be that through climate, COVID, or conflict. It is funny, shocking, and a meditation on youth.
I wanted to explore the concept of the apocalypse through a more feminine lens: this is not The Purge or Mad Max. I wrote with the impetus of capturing how I believed the people I love would react to the world ending. They’d have a lot of sex. They’d be bored. They’d remain in good and crap relationships. They’d eat comfort food. They’d cry a lot. They’d try more psychedelics. They’d tell each other they love one another. I really don’t think they’d bludgeon their friends to death, mainly because they’re too tired and too in love.
Through vignettes of different characters and environments, the audience is allowed to witness various responses to the apocalypse: a hedonistic party, a couple who stays together out of necessity, friends who try to distract each other, and a sad clown who gets up, puts on his costume, and continues to go to work as the world burns. Oh. A butt plug might also be inserted on stage. But maybe I’m just saying that to get bums on seats - or plugs?
What are you most excited about?
Honestly, I’m just immensely grateful to be working with such a stunning team on this one. We were lucky enough - or should I say we hustled our absolute tooshies off - to premier this show at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. During that season, we learnt a huge amount, and are so excited to share the new and improved iteration of the show with our Melbourne audiences. Compiled of a team made entirely of VCA grads, I feel so privileged to be in such an open, positive, and immensely queer space. Working with friends is one of the sexiest things a person can do, and I’m a huge proponent for seeing talent in your environment and snatching it up with a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’. Our design is stunning, Danni A. Esposito has made a gorgeous soundtrack to accompany the world of the play, Casey Harper Wood has created a joyous set, and Meg Dunn has directed it in such a bold and exciting way. They’ve collectively taken the nugget of my play and fashioned it into a gold bullion.
Why should people come and see it?
Several reasons. First off: it’s really funny. It’s bizarre and physical and grotesque and will make you proper belly laugh and proper chest-heave cry. The performers are all nuanced and highly skilled, allowing for a rich exploration of the end of the world.
Secondly: (if I don’t toot my own horn, who will?) The writing is pretty damn good. Through this play, I have explored hyper lyrical poetic devices, and played with different linguistic techniques. There is poetry, stripped back dialogue, verbose verse, some fantastic monologues, and scenes delivered in complete silence. Inspired by Alice Birch, Caryl Churchill and Nicola Gunn, I gave myself leave to be very experimental with this script, and I believe it has paid off.
Finally: The team are young, queer, and diverse. We’re funny and sexy and silly and ready to be seen. Coming to this show means supporting art that doesn’t just promote white men who already get paid 14% more than me :)
Come party with us for the end of the world. There’s nowhere else you’ll want to be, I promise.
A cool element?
Is a GLITTER CURTAIN cool enough for you? What about a STROBE LIGHT? A BALL PIT?
Yeah. Thought so. See you there.