The issue of immigration and climate change has never been more relevant. In Water, award-winning playwright Jane Bodie explores guilt, history and human rights. The epic works spans three eras, following three families, born in different times, but united by stories of immigration and transportation.
Black Swan Resident Artist, Emily McLean, who in the last ten years has directed 8 new Australian scripts. As a director, she “wants to direct shows that look at any issue that is pertinent now…to create a space where conversations can occur.” Read her notes on the production below.
It’s fascinating which parts of history we choose to learn from and which we don’t. Women have the vote now but not equal pay. Indigenous Australians are now citizens but the incarceration and suicide rates are disproportionate. When it comes to the issue of refugees though, we seem unable to learn from our history. The movement of people displaced from their homes has been divisive and worried generation after generation. Yet the Italians, Vietnamese, and Sudanese have arrived and we still have our jobs and our houses. The sky hasn’t fallen and the food is better.
Water is a play about two urgent current issues, immigration and the environment, in the guise of a family kitchen-sink drama. The family, as society, argues different points of view. This allows the arguments to twist and turn ferociously quickly and use both intellect and emotion. The arguments exist as a family’s personal history and an issue’s public history.
Jane Bodie has written a layered, intelligent, sparkling script. Its humanity is powerful. She has taken a black and white moral issue and created a play and characters that are not. What an energy to have in the room. We loved working with her. Her fierce ability to think five thoughts at once, her comedy routines and her experience meant that we could throw questions and suggestions and she knew what was worth catching and what wasn’t. Her ability to find clarity through distillation was impressive and Water is muscular because of it.
The first production of a new script is thrilling and demands much of everyone. The cast have been wonderful – completely rigorous about the story and in particular their characters. They have also been hilarious. Fiona Bruce’s set allows us to watch history play out on the same island with objects hiding in plain sight that move across time and space. Just like our ideas, hopes, fears. Lucy and Clint have given light and sound respectively to a strange world somewhere in the near future and made things slightly skew. Katie and Amelia our Stage Manager and Assistant Stage Manager have tracked people, cheese platters and script changes magnificently.
I came on board for a workshop after the script had already been commissioned and workshopped twice. I thank Clare Watson and Polly Low for their work and for giving a new script what it needs – time and multiple thoughtful and playful examinations.
Come over to our island – you are welcome here.