On the first day of rehearsals, following the first read, a conversation started about the layout of Western Sydney. It comes up in the script a couple of times. During the performance, David Williams describes his experience criss-crossing the city. He points out where he worked, lived, where he went on to work and where he now lives. What struck me most, is that the middle of the compass was Parramatta. It seems like a small detail but I think it’s deceptively big. At least for me. I think I remember a question being raised about whether this would be interesting to people living in the area. I said yes. The Dramaturg, Kate Worsley, said yes. I’m retrospectively assuming David was in the yes camp too, having written the script. A short discussion followed around why we thought it was interesting. We didn’t agree exactly. There were common threads but three different experiences led to three slightly different perspectives.
I’m always happy to see stories from Western Sydney on stage. But what really excited me about this rehearsal room is that I wasn’t the only voice expressing my experience growing up and working out West. When it came to the question around why the compass might be interesting, I could be wrong. I could be very wrong. I could listen and learn and not feel like I had to represent a unified community of people living in a big bunch of suburbs wedged between the coast and the Blue Mountains. This was day one.
Being able to hover on the outside of this process and look in has been an incredibly valuable experience. Currently I’m a theatre producer at The Joan, Penrith. From this role I oversee our theatre making program, The Q. My job gives me the opportunity to help grow new writing in Western Sydney and work directly with the established and emerging artists that make up our communities. I really love my job, but I think it’s important for artists to take time out of our regular collaborations, roles, venues and cities to listen and learn from the work going on a couple towns over. I’m very grateful to David, Lee, the team at National Theatre of Parramatta and Griffin for offering me this opportunity.
Nick Atkins is a theatremaker and producer. He is currently Producer, Q Programs for The Joan and Board Member for PACT centre for emerging artists. Nick is the Creative Futures Participant for Smurf In Wanderland.