Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Rebecca Clarke: Belongings

In June, AH and I were asked to attend a reading of playwright and actor Rebecca Clarke’s new work Belongings. I felt both honoured and flattered to participate and so, on the wintery Wednesday evening of June 23rd, we and umbrellas battled tiny footpaths full of trees and home-time workers to get to the rehearsal rooms in Surry Hills.
I asked the lovely Rebecca if I could write some notes about her work for my blog & got the ‘go for it’ reply. It was a bit tricky to write about, I didn’t want to give away any secrets but I don’t think
there’s any need for a “spoilers warning” so read on:

In Belongings Rebecca layers themes of family, loss, belonging, sexual tension and desire against a backdrop of rural Queensland.The first protagonist we meet is a young woman preparing for the funeral of her grandfather who is also the man who raised her.  Seemingly world weary and cynical but also naive and uncertain, she’s been shaped by her upbringing, by the land, loneliness and the need to want to belong somewhere – preferably somewhere else.

Enter young jaded city male, wound tight & also lonely, he wants to think he knows the girl;  feeling a connection and the need to protect mostly due to his connection with dead granddad and the big company that wants the land.   To me, he seeks out where he belongs not to place but to people.  He is not a grunting cocky, nor is he a slick big business exploiter.  He is out of place in his job and out of place way out nowhere. He’s a bit of an ordinary, modern man with heart and some well scripted vices.

We then meet middle-aged (& wonderfully played by a guest actor), woman who runs the bar and… has secrets – well, she may have some answers.

There are 3 featured humans but another protagonist is an abandoned house on the property belonging to the young woman’s family.  It’s ghostly but the interior has life and material belongings from an era only just past.  Humans did live here but they are so obviously absent that the possessions scattered through it belong to the house itself rather than humans.

Without any theatrical extras, we sat through the whole reading totally involved the story and walked out of the building with an enthusiasm to see the full production.  Belongings has grit, drama and some very nice humour.  Rebecca’s writing is instinctive and intelligent.  She won awards and critical acclaim for her 2005 play Unspoken, which was also adapted and broadcast on ABC Radio National.   It is my good fortune to have met Rebecca Clarke and call her a friend and it is Australia’s luck to have her in its creative realm.  Onya Bec!

Shortly after that evening her work was shortlisted for the
Queensland Premier’s Drama Award along with Marcel Dorney & Philip Dean.

Thanks to this, all three artists have the opportunity to focus completely on fine-tuning their work with expert advice and one of the three will have their work produced by the Queensland Theatre Company as part of the 2011 season.

- Gosh, how exciting!
The Queensland site tells us this about Rebecca’s play:

Belongings is a poetic three-hander play set on a remote Australian rural property, and also at the Hotel at the nearest small township. It's inspired by the land around Many Peaks and Kalpower, outside of Gladstone, combined with an old family property near Banana in the Callide Valley. The story explores isolation, heritage, community, and the change that results from the death of a powerful patriarch and an 'old way'; the rising up of ghosts and secrets. How does a person find themselves again when all that has been seemingly 'known' and solid has shifted irrevocably? To what do we 'belong' to when so much has been stripped away?

Cool synopsis & I hope she does well. I haven’t named any of the protagonists as now Belongings is a work in progress, things can change and I really, really hope it ends up on stage for you, dear reader to come along with us one evening.

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