“Im not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be there”.
When my mother died I was cradling my 2 year old son. As she took her last breath my mortality appeared front and centre, regarding me with a little disdain and a touch of arrogance!
I’ve since attempted to balance the scales by the consumption of copious amounts of fish oil, kale and quinoa, the furtive mastering of an elliptical trainer and the occasional temptation to inject my face with botulinum toxin but…every year as fireworks cascade over the Harbour Bridge I begrudgingly acknowledge that the numbers are advancing and I will most certainly die before some smarty pants solves how to reverse free radical damage and therefore my walk into the sunset.
My son is now 23 and hopefully it will be many more years before he’s confronted with the possibility of watching a parent die or as Campion so poignantly writes, “to drift without an anchor”.
James Lugton (as the Son) delivers that line along with so many others than you could be duped into believing he is the leading player of Unholy Ghosts but if that’s the assumption then how’s it possible that Anna Volska and Robert Alexander could be relegated to supporting players? If the 1st week of rehearsals are anything to go by then the answer is…impossible!
Anna’s place in Australian theatre history is well documented and, as we have discovered over the last few days, Robert has played her theatre husband in at least (I can’t vouch for the truth of this statement) 5 other productions over the decades of their combined theatre lives.
Needless to say rehearsals are filled with lots of laughter, anecdotes about past productions, and an easy rapport.
Campion said when we discussed the casting, “I can see them as family” and a family we have become.
It takes courage to be an actor, to reveal your fears, joys, loneliness, imperfections, glories; the complexities of humanness for all others to rest their eyes and ears on for a short time and then mull over during the sipping of a smooth Shiraz at the bar. It’s especially challenging when confronted with a script that asks the big questions and proffers to answer by way of a joke about a ‘four legged flame thrower”.
The 1st week of rehearsals have revealed a multitude of scenarios where the recollection of a painful loss bubbles to the surface and then, with tissues in tow, we all scatter to the kettle for a diversionary cuppa and Tim Tam.
Unholy Ghosts is a deeply personal story that Campion so generously has decided to share with the world. Not only has he decided to share but he’s also decided that we have license to laugh at the pain, the intimacy, the horror of what is, for all of us, the most feared and vulnerable of moments. The delivery of this story is a responsibility that everyone in the rehearsal room holds close to their heart…
So, at the moment, Woody Allen’s quote has been corrupted to, ” We’re desperately afraid of dying. But there may be a laugh in there somewhere”.