Come hear new plays from Perth’s premier emerging playwrights!

Posted by on 21 January 2015 | | 0 Comments
the past year, and we want to share their best works with you!
After a year of drafting and a week of development, each play will receive a public reading by professional, experienced actors, to bring the words on the page to life! The plays will be read in pairs, so we invite you to come and see two, four, or even all six. 
Friday 30 January
'Girl Shut Your Mouth' by Gita Bezard
A savage comedy about how only the luckiest girls are shot in the head
'The Book of Life' by Joe Lui
A mythic journey from the beginning of evolution, through the underworld and all the way into a contemporary existential crisis
'Olympus Burning' by Nate Doherty 
In a future that fuses ancient Greek myth and reality TV culture, a fading star is diagnosed with the “big C”… cellulite
'Tonsils+Tweezers' by Will O'Mahony
Best friends Tonsils and Tweezers contemplate the dilemma of their stunted lives on the day of their ten year high school reunion
Saturday 31 January 
'The Mobile Soul' by James Marzec
A power couple are confronted by an offer that’s impossible to refuse when Satan asks if they can develop an app for him that will help people sell their souls.
'Belated' by Liz Newell
What would happen if the people closest to you were secretly holding you away from the person you need the most?

Black Swan's Emerging Writers Group has been hard at work over the past year, and we want to share their best works with you!

These six playwrights of exceptional talent and promise were each asked to write a play that showed creative bravery and an urgency of voice.

Director Lawrie Cullen-Tait on 'Venus in Fur': "The world of masochism is inherently theatrical"

Posted by on 9 January 2015 | | 0 Comments


The play brings Sacher-Masoch’s writing into the contemporary era. The themes that he was exploring have shaped our ideas of sexuality and power, and still have an immensely contemporary resonance. 
Thomas, the writer/director in the play, says his play 'Venus in Fur' is essentially the Greek play The Bacchae. The struggle of the human condition between the civilised and the primal.
These intrinsic issues resonate with audiences brought up with the, simplistic, Freudian ideas and concepts. My understanding is that of the ego being the result of the battle between the super-ego and the id – the animal instinct fighting for its freedom from those domineering voices telling us how and what we should be. 
Sacher-Masoch's main theme is about gaining sexual pleasure through domination. Psychosexual theories started to be written around the time of Sacher-Masoch’s writing through Freud and then Jung. These theories have become part of, and indeed created the concept of, ever-evolving discourses around sex and power that we are still having today.
The book also explores the traits that are represented as masculine and feminine and where our individual behaviours may have come from and why. One of the ideas that Sacher-Masoch explores in his book is the idea that man views woman as a saint or whore, she cannot be both. He then goes on to say in part of his summing up of his experiences:
“The moral is that woman, as Nature has created her and as she is currently reared by man, is his enemy and can only be his slave or despot, but never his companion. She will be able to become his companion only when she has the same rights as he, when she is equal in education and work.” 
I have included this quote as I think it raises some of the ideas in gender politics that are still being talked about today.
In your press notes you also say, it’s a play that can be approached in various ways and you are curious about the reception to the style you choose. What IS the style you choose?
I think my first question was, how do we bring the audience on this journey through time and create surreal world of sexual tension, love and pleasure?
Venus in Fur is part of the Black Swan Lab and features emerging artists set designer Patrick Howe, lighting designer Joe Lui and sound designer Brett Smith. In my early conversations with the design team I covered much territory with referencing the Ancient Greek, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and contemporary New York. The actual play references art and lovers through the eras. The whole thing felt quite eclectic and anachronistic. 
The main world’s we need to capture are contemporary New York and the Austro-Hungarian Empire of the 1870's. Both have very particular styles, both are formal and sexy in different ways. 
When I read the script I felt it could be approached in a David Lynch way or a Tarantino style. I think I have mixed a little of both into the feel of the piece as it should have a hyper real quality and also something cold dark and crueller to underscore the world of masochism even though there is a lot of humour in the play.
There is an aesthetic that masochism has which is essentially fantasy – a mix of art and suspense. Which sits beautifully in the theatre space a sort of heightened theatrical space.
Included in my interpretation I have worked with the other designers and the actors to create a space that is voyeuristic, as well as a battle ground for the sexes.  In my interpretation I have opted to create a surreal framework for all of these elements to sit within. Given the underlying fantasy and theatrical elements of the piece it felt right to create this surreal space where an electricity and tension could be kept live in the space around and through the actors.
The play within a play: how do you bring a freshness to this tried and trusted theatrical machination?
David Ives has created a beautifully crafted and fully realised piece of theatre.
The theatrical device of ‘the play within a play’ has been used successfully many times and David Ives uses it masterfully in Venus in Fur.
The set-up is perfect with an actress seeking an audition in contemporary New York. In the ‘play within the play’ Ives creates a beautiful, magical world of formal language and discourse around the theme of gender politics, pleasure, love and desire in relationships and the limitations and conflicts that come from these desires mirroring and heightening what is happening in the contemporary world.
It was the play within the play that jumped out at me when I read the text. I could see that world straight away. The world of masochism is inherently theatrical and attracted me to the piece in the first place. 
As we journey through the play we go deeper and deeper into this world where all of these spaces can coexist together through the combination of the writer’s artifice, the direction, design and performance.
What do you see as some of the main ideas behind this play? How do audiences react?
I avoid looking at reviews or samples of other works so I can go on my own instincts when direct it. I haven’t seen the play myself I’ve only read it.
The actors and I had a conversation to start with and I said they are welcome to watch the film and do any process of collection and research that works for them. I did say that I felt a useful thing would be to read the novella, the source material for the play. Adam could then see what hooked Thomas into adapting the play and Felicity could get a notion of the issues and emotions around female sexuality, along with power and domination, and the interesting and healthy arguments presented regarding female emancipation.
Sacher-Masoch says that neither woman or man should be held up and worshipped or loved as if in the image of God. In short he is saying that romantic love can be considered part of the shadow self and something we project onto others.
Be careful what you wish for in love and pleasure.
We are still ironing out issues of women in power (both in the world and in relationships) and who and what they should be, what they should look like and what is acceptable. People are starting to write their own guidebooks as men are also adapting and redefining their identities in this post-feminism world. 
I don’t know yet how the audience will react, what I’m looking forward to seeing the audience’ engagement with the play. I hope that they will engage and recognise something in it.

This is the second part of Director and Costume Designer Lawrie Cullen-Tait's interview for The West Australian, talking about Venus in Fur and how a 'play within a play' and masochism fit in! Have a read: