We are in the second week of rehearsals for our next production, Shrine by Tim Winton! Director Kate Cherry, author Tim Winton and actor John Howard come together for a second time (the first being our 2011 production Rising Water) to bring this West Australian story to life on stage.
Tim Winton answered a few questions for SCOOP Magazine's Winter Edition, and here they are if you missed it:
Obviously Shrine is a work of the imagination first and foremost. But I'm wondering if it was in any way inspired by a real-life event, or events. That particular stretch of road from Margaret River to Perth has claimed so many young lives ...
Tim Winton: No, its not based on any specific events. But I spend hours driving in the country at the beginning and end of every week and for the past few years Ive taken note of the number of roadside shrines turning up at the edges of our highways. I was startled by the memorials to young men in particular and the iconography used to represent them. Apart from sporting references football mostly the main symbols celebrating their lives were those concerning alcohol. Some roadside crosses are festooned with beer cans, bourbon placards and so on. And given that some of these young people died as a result of drink-driving, I wondered what it must be like as a parent to come upon one of these sites and see your dead child memorialized in such a way. And that was really the genesis of the play. Also watching the way certain memorials change or erode over time.
How is the process of writing a play different from a novel?
TW: Well, you have to find your way from the beginning to the end, so theyre not completely unrelated. Theatre is less about language, I guess, and thats a struggle for a novelist. But the collaboration with others is a compensation. For a novelist working alone for years at a time, its quite refreshing.
Throughout your career, in whatever genre, you've shown an enormous affinity for adolescents and young adults. It's a time of life you seem to return to, in your work, again and again. Why is that?
TW: This is when people are close to becoming who theyll be. Theyre not quite fully formed and so theyre open and vulnerable. Its an interesting time. As older people we look back in wonder and often understand ourselves only in restrospect. Many of us feel like creakier versions of our teen selves, even in middle age.
You clearly have a strong attraction with the WA landscape... What was your earliest memory connecting with the land? What makes the landscape so special to you?
TW: As a very small boy I remember driving and then walking through huge, bare sand dunes in moonlight. The sense of scale must have impressed me, also the inhumanity of the landscape, its indifference. I guess there was something majestic and mysterious about it. People are puzzling, landscape is enigmatic. And in WA theres more of the latter than the former, lets face it.
One of your hallmarks as a writer is your genius for "writing the land" - and/or sea as the case may be ... In just the same way that wine experts speak of the "terroir" of a particular vintage, readers can almost smell and taste Winton's Western Australia. Do you have a...
TW: A sense of terroir, you mean? People say my work has a distinctive palate, which is interesting. Maybe I do have a distinctive sensibility, but Im not the best person to ask. After all, I have, several times, been driving somewhere, listening to the radio as a story or novel is being read. You know, switching on halfway through a book reading, and Ive listened along for sometimes ten minutes before recognizing the storys one of mine. Sometimes, I dont twig until the announcer says who the writer was. Thats how qualified I am to speak of my own fictional terroir.