Jeanette knows The Boys well. She was in the original play-reading, she starred in the film and now she is starring as mother of the Spragues for Griffin.
The Boys received a controversial reception when it was staged in 1991. Do you think people will find it as confronting this time around?
I was, strangely enough, involved in the very first reading of The Boys at the Australian National Playwrights Conference in 1988. It too was controversial, with a verbal brawl breaking out in the auditorium that lasted quite some time.
The old parade Theatre was packed and people were almost screaming at each other. The main objection being that, “these people”, the characters in the play, were too articulate for their socio-economic class. There was a young boy in the audience, who had seen a lot that he shouldn’t have seen in his short life. He stood up and addressed the angry arty mob. He assured them that he was one of “these people”, and he had no trouble articulating his thoughts!
I think people will always be confronted by the human capacity for violence, particularly when the author gives the perpetrator an ordinary human face and an ordinary beating heart, and a context which clarifies, but not condones their actions. Stuffing villains into the “psychopath jar” helps us feel safe. Best if it’s an aberration.
It’s incredibly difficult to talk about crimes against women in an honest and open way. It’s almost impossible to discuss it without prompting the, “But I’m not like that. Not all men are like that,” response. Most women who are murdered are killed by the partners. But the hatred has to be made special, extraordinary.
Men are emasculated by society, not women. Perhaps this hatred and fear is more confronting than the shocking violence it inevitably breeds.
Do you think audiences’ perception of violence has changed since 1991?
I think there has been a misplaced desire to put cinema on stage. An unhealthy obsession with “making things real” as opposed to portraying them. I think it is actually confronting for people to see violence rendered theatrically. It’s almost impossible to do it realistically, because it hurts! A live fight puts the pressure on both audience and performer. The power lies in the threat. The violence lives in the bullying, the game-playing, the shifting allegiances, the manipulation and the fear.
What drew you to the stage role of Sandra Sprague after having been in the film as Jackie?
I am intrigued by the position she is in. By how she got there and by what she thinks about it all.
Sandra gives birth to three boys who grow up to commit the most brutal of crimes.
Is she complicit? Does bullying and abuse lead to passive aggressive behaviour? Does “making the best of it” destroy your personality, making way for a false persona? Victim as opposed to unwilling accomplice?
Mothers aren’t supposed to walk away, and for a long time, neither were wives.
When did you last see the film? Will having seen the film help you in terms of preparing for the stage role of Sandra Sprague?
I don’t think I’ve seen the film since its release. I suppose having been in both the film and the original reading, I have a memory of these people and their world which lives inside of me. It’s a created world, but it has its own reality and familiarity to me. A few extra layers, which is a gift.
Why do you think everyone should come and see The Boys?
Because it’s always good to get to know ourselves…