Director Kate Gaul reflects on opening week of The Violent Outburst That Drew Me To You and the joy of watching the play connect with young theatre-goers and adults alike.

The Violent Outburst That Drew Me to You opened on Friday 20 June, after two preview performances. Opening weeks are notorious for a production “finding its audience”. We were blessed with a mixture of subscribers, fellow theatre makers and importantly clusters of teens and younger theatre-goers. This is a play about, and for, adolescents; but like any theatre, this production can be enjoyed by a wider audience: as Suzy Wrong says, “The play is meaningful for young and old, perhaps in different ways, but it contains truths that will resonate with every open heart.”

Emily Ayoub + Michael Cutrupi photo by Heidrun Lohr

And there is a real pleasure in observing parents and children enjoying theatre together – young kids in stitches (possibly over the swearing), parents smiling in recognition at familiar scenarios and the wild, independent and vibrant teens sitting forward – engaging in insights as one reported to me as “those chicks were really making sense about being 16.” On Wednesday last week we had an 11am schools show – I was very excited to sit in the house that morning. Our very first performance of this play ever was at Riverside Theatre at the end of 2013 and was to a dedicated year 11/12 audience. Casually chatting to the students afterwards, I discovered they were intruiged (in a good way) by the ambiguity of the play’s ending, endorsed many of the plays observations and were especially charmed by the range of theatre making devices used to tell this story – dance, song, puppetry, text. 

So, The Violent Outburst that Drew Me to You premiered in a very modest production at Riverside Theatre last year as part of their (now, sadly, defunct) TRUE WEST program. The real beauty of a program like TRUE WEST was that, it not only championed voices from its regional area of Sydney but, provided an important spring board for diverse new writing. What better way to develop a new play and production than to get it up in front of an audience? I often lament the absence of a theatre where – as part of the programming mix – there can be a turnover of new plays, simply produced, as part of play and playwright development. We used the short premiere season at Riverside to explore the form of this play and used it as a kind of sketch-pad to explore HOW to tell the story. So, although this current season is not strictly what could be called a second production (as essentially the same team has gone on to develop the original production) we deployed our limited resources into elements that served our story telling choices on the stage of the Stables Theatre. We opened the production in Sydney with a genuine confidence and clarity with the material and, ultimately, more joy.

 Michael Cutrupi and Renee Heys photo by Heidrun Lohr

The elusive second production is somewhat uncharted territory in Australian theatre. The limited opportunites are partly due to economic pressure and partly due to perceived community pressure on theatre companies. The interest in premieres can tip over into fetish stranding the in-between plays – second, third productions – in uncomfortably becalmed seas. As part of the Griffin Independent season we explore a quasi-second production of Fin’s play. The collaboration between our combined imaginations, our various skills, strengths and our belief in the importance of reaching an audience of all ages is deeply satisfying. I hope you enjoy the production!

Kate Gaul, June 2014

The Violent Outburst That Drew Me To You plays until 12 July. For more information and to book tickets click here.