By Zachary Sheridan
The Blue Room Theatre
8 – 26 August 2017 // 7pm
Recently, I sat down with some of the cast and creatives behind An Almost Perfect Thing. Coming to the Blue Room Theatre this August, AAPT is a psychological thriller by Canadian playwright Nicole Moeller. It surrounds Chloe, a young girl who was abducted at age 11 and held captive in a basement. Now free, the public want her to reveal who her kidnapper was and why she seems to be protecting him.
The cast features Daisy Coyle, Nick Maclaine and Andrew Hale. I was joined by Daisy and Andrew, as well as assistant director Riley Spadaro and stage manager Jessie Atkins. Later in the interview I was also graced by the presence of the director herself, Gabrielle Metcalf.
Why was the creative team initially drawn to this play?
R: Gabby was in Canada on a conference that was sponsored by The Canadian Press. At the conference she found this play and then couldn’t put it down, and has been trying for the past year to put it on with Tyler Hill our designer. And then it just happened to be picked up for this Blue Room season… I had worked with Tyler and Emily (the producer) before on Trouble in Tahiti with Lost and Found Opera (which did very well – it’s potentially going to Wales next year) and then Emily brought me on as assistant director.
Why couldn’t Gabby put the script down?
D: I felt the same way. My attention span isn’t very long and I struggle to sit down and read scripts in one go – but I did manage to read this in two goes! I wanted to get to the end because it’s such a thriller…
J: Usually as a stage manager I have to read through a play and make notes of what the props are, etc. but about halfway through I was just reading and had forgotten what my goal was. I had to get to the end and find out – it’s awesome.
Why do you think this is a story that needs to be told now?
At this point the interviewer received looks of disdain. (In a jovial way).
I know that question can be a bit rough…
A: I don’t know that it is a story that needs to be told now. It’s just a great story and it’s a form of entertainment, but it also hits on the universal themes of the father and daughter – but from a really lovely angle where it’s not about ‘daddy issues’ or ‘escaping from your parents.’ It doesn’t literally touch on those things – but it’s the underlying narrative of the whole thing… The story itself is about a young girl who has been kidnapped… It does what good theatre does: it talks about important themes but in a way that you don’t even know that it’s talking about them.
I’ve read that this play is about ‘owning your own story.’
D: Very much so. We were talking about the Hounds of Love drama yesterday. If you want to talk about relevance, it’s a similar thing because the first instinct of Chloe is to not be the victim. She wants to take ownership of her story… This play poses interesting questions: who owns these stories? And does it matter?
R: It is and it isn’t about the Natasha Kampusch story. (Similar to Hounds of Love and the Birnie murders). So there are a lot of ethical questions surrounding that… But ultimately I do feel that this play sits separately to those narratives and is its own entity.
A: Once a story is out there – and if I’ve heard a version of a story it, in a sense, becomes a part of my story. So are your experiences your own?
D: And the importance of truth. Andrew’s character Greg is always asking for the truth from Chloe, but she is telling her truth.
R: Chloe is telling her subjective truth but Greg is trying to get to the truth the public wants. And if you want relevance, consider that in our post-truth world.
A: The desire for Chloe to be a victim from audiences is very interesting. I began thinking it was all horror, but now I think she was just held captive. Media narratives – of course we want them to survive, but we only want them to survive through trauma. We want sex and violence. (Laughs). God knows I do…
Completely on a tangent: I read an article about actor Naomi Watts last night, and she said that she was only interested in roles she could learn from. Is there anything major you’ve learned from this process?
D: I’m a baby actor so I’m always learning. And this show is super challenging for me as an actor – there’s so many layers. And then there’s all these other people to learn from.
Have the been good to learn from?
A: She can’t say anything else…
D: If you’re not learning on a show, what are you doing?
A: Theatre is about being open. And when you’re open, you don’t get to say what comes in. You have to deal with all the incoming stuff.
R: I think you, Andrew – as the senior member of the company – have lead that process.
A: Oh no.
R: In a very good way! Daisy and I are the babies, and then Andrew has a wealth of experience and it’s been amazing to learn from him. And Jessie has been an absolute rock.
Riley, because you’re new, how has it been having to help direct such an experienced cast?
R: There’s been an open process with a horizontal hierarchy which has allowed us to feel very safe when it comes to throwing stuff out there.
A: If there’s a bad idea you just laugh about it and move on. As a performer, or even as a director, I don’t need my ideas to be done. I just need a space in a rehearsal room where I’m allowed to say them. And that’s been a hallmark of this process. You still have to go with what the director says – which is how it should be – otherwise its theatre by consensus which is band, but having that space where you are allowed to speak is really important.
J: As a stage manager, my job is usually to sit and note take and not say much, but Gabby has set this up in a way that everyone has a say.
And this comes from this horizontal hierarchy?
R: Yeah, it’s not like devising where decisions are made by committee. In this room, everybody throws out everything, and then we – Gab and I, and no doubt Andrew – will pick and choose.
Daisy, is it your first year out of Uni?
D: I’m still at Uni.
Well, that makes this next question void.
D: I’m doing it part time.
I was going to ask you how you’re finding it in the big, wide world?
D: Well, I’m not out there yet… But it’s nice to be doing this work. What’s scary is thinking – after Lighthouse Girl as example – what if I never get to do this again?
Andrew, is there any advice you’d give to young theatre makers?
A: Don’t wait to be chosen. If you want to act, find the thing you want to act in, and it will naturally attract the other people who want to do that show.
D: That’s what makes me nervous about the future – sitting and waiting for the phone to ring.
A: It’s not a useful pastime.
To each of you, is there a particular show that you saw that made you want to be part of the theatre world?
D: I saw a pantomime when I was really small and thought it was the best thing ever. I just kept laughing and laughing and laughing.
A: Certainly a formative theatrical experience was a little version of Beauty and the Beast where at one point an actor said, ‘Come on everybody. Let’s go to the princesses’ house.’ And the whole audience – we’re all 5 or 6 – stood up and flooded the stage. I remember distinctly walking through the portal from the world of front-of-house (the story world) to the dirt of back-stage and then seeing all the flats from the back. We all got pushed back to our seats and told off…
R: Pantomimes again… But the thing that hit me recently was a production of Birdland by Simon Stephens at the Melbourne Theatre Company. It was directed by Leticia Cáceres – who I am working with in November at Belvoir on Barbara and the Camp Dogs. For the first time ever I sat on the edge of my seat. The energy leaped off the stage. It was like a rock concert. It was the first production where I went, ‘Oh shit.’
J: There’s not one particular thing that got me into theatre. It was a gradual journey. In school, packing down concerts would get me out of class. I discovered later I didn’t want to be on the stage, but I still wanted to be part of the world. Then a production course came up to do with sound, lighting, costumes, stage management, etc. and that’s where I fell in love with it. And then WAAPA, and then here.
R: A lot of people have brought up school… I was in Brisbane last year with my teacher, Fran Barbe, and we were doing a production with her, and then her teacher came to watch it. Now Fran’s a master. She grabbed her teacher and turned to me and said, ‘find good teachers and never let them go,’ and I thought this was really gorgeous… It’s all about finding teachers.
We’ve just had the director walk in.
G: I don’t know if director is quite the right word.
We’re almost at the end.
G: That says it all, really.
R: There was a great question about how you chose the play?
G: Yeah, I went to a directors’ lab in Toronto and when you went to register they had all these plays to choose from. I picked one up, started reading it, and just thought that this has to be performed.
A: (Cheekily) Why is this an important story? Why do you need to tell it now?
G: Why does everyone ask that?
Raptures of laughter.
G: Well, it’s quite an amazing phenomenon that someone thinks that they can just take someone off the street and lock them up. On a global scale, consider in Nigeria where 293 schoolgirls were taken… What is it about people that they think this is a thing they can do? The psychology of that is really interesting I think… All stories come down to what it means to be human, and if you go right to the nut of it, it’s about people searching for connection. All the characters in this play are searching for love in a way.
A: (Singing) ‘In all the wrong places.’
G: This play’s a musical. Did anyone mention that?
Regarding the arts, what excites you about Perth?
Andrew’s head falls to the table at the thought of the very conventional question.
There’s a second part to the question! … Where has it got room to improve?
D: Well, I’m from Perth more or less. And it’s exciting for me because I didn’t think there was anything here growing up. And I love telly, and I love film, and I did love theatre but only when it would be massive like Mamma Mia! – which also isn’t my thing – so when I discovered the Blue Room and Fringe it was great. There are so many young minds excited about making theatre. In terms of what it needs – I think we should look more towards existing artists.
A: There is talk of more support in the small-medium sector. There’s the Blue Room at one end, Black Swan at the other, and there’s a big gaping hole in the middle. But there are whispers in the wind about something coming. Hopefully that comes to fruition.
G: There’s the emerging artists, and then there’s Black Swan. And then there’s Andrew and I –
A: The submerging artists.
D: It would be better for people like me to work with people who are experienced rather than just your peers.
R: There are a lot of people who are really supportive of emerging artists in Perth – for example, the teams at Performing Lines WA and Country Arts WA. I am excited for Clare Watson’s first season at Black Swan, which will be announced in late August. I think Clare will prove to be the shake up Perth needs. Fringe is also growing exponentially… But people tend to work with the same people over and over again, and because they are not diversifying their product, audiences are not diversifying either. And I think that’s really detrimental to this industry. Perth is the most isolated capital city, and it’s becoming the most isolated arts community, too. And that’s a real challenge… We also need more funding.
Everyone’s favourite song to boogie to?
D: Earth, Wind & Fire – September.
G: Uptown Funk.
A: I don’t have a particular song. I love the Mountain Goats.
R: Kate Miller-Heidke – O Vertigo, Change Your Mind, and Drama.
J: 27 by Passenger.
G: Did you record all of that?
It’s to appeal to the younger generations. Interviews broken up by fun music.