I’m going to admit straight up that I spend an unhealthy portion of my days clicking through Facebook photos of friends from school or uni. I haven’t spoken to many of these people in years, but I think I could still hold a conversation with them on the strength of my observations on their extensive collections of selfies. And in my friend Chris Summers I have often found a kindred Facebook spirit. Chris, however, puts this obsession to better use, turning it into painfully honest self confessional theatre. My interview with him about his upcoming show as part of the Ice Age program of You Are Here Festival follows:
So….what are you writing for You Are Here? And is this the first time you’ll be performing in something like this?
I’m writing a non-fiction reflective piece called Not About You. I’ve been really interested in memoir and personal experience recently – particularly with the popularisation of shows like Girls – and have been exploring this myself through blog posts. But at the same time, as a fiction writer, I’m interested in interrogating this notion of ‘authenticity’ – what is the attraction to baring your soul, and writing earnest stuff about your own life? Isn’t the greater challenge creating all that in a fictional world, sans self-indulgence?
It’s the first time I’ve done something like this, definitely – and as for performing – I have no idea whether or not this will be a performance, or a reading, or a conversation, or a hybrid-dance-installation-mime, but I’ll definitely be doing it myself!
Self confessional seems to have a strong pull for you – why do you think audiences are drawn to this?
I think young people feel really comfortable sharing things about themselves all the times these days – in part due to social media, in part due to our own assuredness of our uniqueness and individuality – and they like realising that, celebrating that in culture too.
But people also love to be voyeurs and self-confession, by definition, is about admitting problems and faults, attributing guilt and blame to yourself – something hard but satisfying to watch as an audience because it is so inherently human. The kinds of questions I’m interested in asking are: how much truth is too much, and would you confront your own truth in the process of watching someone else’s?
You’re currently living in Sydney after long period in Melbourne and the short time in Austin Texas – what role does place have in your work?
Place always plays a large role in what I write, because I find I am generally very sensitive to my surroundings. As such, having moved from Sydney to Melbourne to Sydney, travelled a fair bit, living in Austin on exchange, I’ve had a lot to respond to. But I also find sometimes it is the absence of space – the absence of ‘home’ or feeling anywhere that I truly ‘belong’ – that has informed my work more than anything else.
It’s certainly been a major driver of my introspection in my self-confessional blog posts and something I’ve grappled with my entire life. Having new places to write about, which work against what I think I know and where, are certainly welcome, if a little daunting. I’ll be looking forward to spending a bit of time in Canberra this year for You Are Here, as well as the UK and Europe when I head off in search of who-knows-what in a few months.
In my experience, music has a really strong influence in a lot of your writing…
It’s weird, I hadn’t really thought about that until you mentioned it, and now that I think about it – there has been a lot of music in my plays. I guess for me music captures tone and inspires me to develop my ideas along certain tangents and feelings…
…the other more subtle way music has influenced my work is my obsession with rhyme, alliteration, meter and rhythm. I’ve always been fascinated with the combination of drama and lyrics / poetry, and sometimes I find my text blurs and the actual words become secondary to how they sound. Not sure if that will at all be the case with Not About You – perhaps I should actually start work writing it, hey?
You can catch Not About You between 9.30 – 11.00pm Friday 15 March @ Fletcher Jones and between 7.30 – 9.00pm Saturday 16 March @ Fletcher Jones.