5 Questions with Debra Oswald


Debra Oswald is one of Australia’s most beloved storytellers. She’s the brains behind some of your favourite TV shows, plays and books—do OffspringDags, or Mr Bailey’s Minder ring a bell to you? Griffin is majorly excited to be premiering Debra’s very first solo show, Is There Something Wrong With That Lady?, so in anticipation of the show’s (sold out!) run, we caught up with Debra to pick her brains about some of her favourite things!

  1. We’re so looking forward to your show at the Stables, Deb! Did you have any main sources of inspiration that informed your process while writing Is There Something Wrong With That Lady?
    I was a regular and enthusiastic audience member of Story Club—the live storytelling show at Giant Dwarf. When I was invited to be one of the storytellers myself, I was vomity-nervous right up until the moment I stumbled onto the stage. I discovered the direct connection with an audience was satisfying, exhilarating. Like rocket fuel. The writing process was guided by the wonderful Lee Lewis, who has also helped sustain my morale about making my stage debut at this advanced age.
  1. You’ve just written a book—The Family Doctor! Do you have any favourite, must-read books at the moment?
    I’m on a women-writers-only policy for the time being. So many wonderful recent books—The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai (especially recommended for anyone who enjoyed the TV series It’s A Sin), The Mothers by Brit Bennett, The Choke by Sofie Laguna, the Hilary Mantel trilogy, Jess Hill’s disturbing and electrifying See What You Made Me Do. I’ve also been seeking out great books by women that passed me by—most recently Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie, a funny, insightful novel which won the Pulitzer in 1984.
  1. As a wonderful writer for screen as well, do you enjoy watching television? Are you a binge watcher, or a savourer of screen?
    I love telly! I try not to binge too much because the digestion of a story needs time; letting one or two episodes sit in your head while you wonder about the characters and what might happen. Being gingered up by hooky episode endings isn’t always the best way to enjoy drama. I’m a big rewatcher too—either because I’m desperate for a dose of the way a certain show makes me feel, or if I’m in a professional mode, to study the way the writers have constructed the drama. Call My Agent, Catastrophe, Justified, Happy Valley, The Americans and many others.
  1. What are some of your favourite things to do in Sydney leading into winter?
    Sydney is a fantastic city for walking and the advantage of winter is that you can walk a long way without becoming a sweaty blob. One of my favourites is to do a circuit from the Quay, swooping into the MCA, then round the Opera House, through the Botanic Gardens, the Art Gallery of NSW, then across Hyde Park, ending up in Chinatown to eat dumplings and those intense custard tarts.
  1. Speaking of great things to do in Sydney, what should audience members expect when they climb up the stairs into the Stables Theatre when they come to see Is There Something Wrong With That Lady?
    Audiences should expect to see one person, with no singing, dance routines or costume changes. It’s a monologue with photos, a cross between a family slideshow and a mock TED talk. The aim is to be embarrassingly honest and I’ll also try to be funny some of the time. There will be tales of my neurotic childhood and desperate attempts to lose my virginity, but most of all, I’ll be trawling through my experiences as a writer over 40 years and asking for the audience’s help—what now?

Is There Something Wrong With That Lady? by Debra Oswald plays at the SBW Stables Theatre from 13 – 24 April.