This is Where We Live director Francesca Smith discusses the challenges of her journey while working on this poetic and raw new Australian work.
“I was born with the feeling that if time and hurry were forgotten, something quiet and wonderful would happen in their place,” – a line from a letter written by Eudora Welty in 1942.
The gap between this high-minded ideal (which I totally believe) and the reality of shepherding this demanding, original, highly complex and challenging poetic text into the 3D world with a team of sensitive, talented and intelligent artists in 3-4 weeks has been like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. More terror than usual.
It’s been like dancing in two worlds at once – one that is deep and quiet that would just keep repeating ‘trust in the process, trust in the process’ . The other: a surface riddled with fear, screaming ‘there’s not enough time’, where we’d be slugging it out on the bruising day-to-day climb up our very own Everest – which in turn would culminate in late night calls to supportive artistic friends and the odd vodka and emergency cigarette.
Nothing worth doing is ever easy, (I knew that), but as I searched my soul for the source of my stress, I rather embarrassingly realised that somewhere, somehow I really had thought (and hoped) that it would be. I had underestimated the creative challenge.
I’d been very intimately involved with the journey of this play’s creation and development. My first initiation was a period of removing – separating myself from the role of creative guide and companion, someone who knew the work from the inside – in order to engage with the space of creating, shaping, interpreting, clarifying and organising from outside, the work that I needed to inhabit as a director.
We all wanted to do justice to Vivienne’s beautiful writing and that desire both fuelled and hindered our discoveries. The work is virtuosic in style and monumental in emotional scope and I wanted it to look easy. I wanted to find a performance aesthetic that focused on the language, observed the stylistic shifts and let the play speak. I wasn’t aiming for naturalism and I wanted a slight distancing that experienced actors would give the piece. I wanted it to have a raw polished quality, a searing love poem to the soul. I wanted to leave everyone beautifully destroyed and opened up in a small intimate space in the cosy private dark of the Griffin space.
I wanted. I wanted. I wanted. I wanted so much.
And as we worked, the less I wanted, the more it came…