Independent ensemble Four Letter Word takes Melbourne’s theatre subculture underground – literally. Bethany Simons spoke with first time playwright Angus Cameron about the triumphs and tribulations of directing his own work, CHIASMUS, in such an unconventional space.
Set in the Collingwood underground car park, CHIASMUS is Four Letter Word’s first original development and the first time Angus Cameron has put pen to paper for the stage. What was it like wearing two key creative hats during the development process?
Cameron says, “It was at once sort of liberating and quite daunting. There is very little to hide behind if you write and then direct. You feel like a lot of you goes into it. You have a lot of creative control. There is no room for ‘the director didn’t understand it’, or ‘I’m working with a bad script’. At the same time, it was wonderful. During rehearsals I could cut, change this, restructure that. It’s been a real development process”.
Cameron admits to writing without the intention of the play being a finished script before the development process began with the actors. “I think it would be very foolish to go in thinking it was at its best. I wanted to write for actors and enable them to bring whatever they wanted to it.”
Started by a group of Melbourne University students, Four Letter Word’s previous interpretations of existing classics have demonstrated a commitment to creating confronting and ‘in your face’ theatre that affects the viewer. So, what can audiences expect from CHIASMUS?
“It’s intimate. Is it confronting? Ideally it is and it isn’t. It is pitched at an intellectual level, but that being said, I hate isolating things, or things that are too pretentious. I want to write accessible theatre. There is a real duality in the script. If you want to be taking this seriously, you can find confronting things in it. At the same time you are welcome to take a step back and have a bit of a laugh. Lesbians, abortion, castration and rape – they’re all in there. I guess I’m more saying ‘Is that really confronting? Can we move on and find some new frontiers?’”
Featuring a bold and creative use of the space, CHIASMUS goes from seating its audience at the edges of a tightly lit chalk square in the first act, to breaking out in order to see the car park for what it really is.
Cameron says, “The second act opens with someone coming in with a torch. The idea is to create and destroy reality in the minds of the audience. Then the lights keep changing the space. I love that the audience sits there willingly suspending their disbelief, pretending that it’s real.”
Created almost as a commentary on independent Melbourne theatre, Cameron says CHIASMUS is very much an experimentation of theatrical conventions. “The whole thing is a bit tongue in cheek – I find the whole post-modern, meta theatre thing takes itself so seriously. A play is just about laying out signs and letting the audience interpret. If people are affected – if they leave angry or laughing – that’s fantastic. I don’t care what it is, I just want them to feel something.”
One thing Cameron doesn’t want audiences to feel is the chill of the Collingwood underground car park. Though industrial heaters have been brought in, audiences are encouraged to rug up for the experience!
CHIASMUS runs until Sunday 30 June
Collingwood Underground Car Park
44 Harmsworth Street, Collingwood
For tickets and info click here