Red Stitch writer-in-residence, Glyn Roberts, chats to us about his upcoming play, The Flock and the Nest, a first-time partnership between St Michael’s Grammar School and Red Stitch Writers.
This is an exciting new collaboration between St Michael’s and Red Stitch. Can you tell us a little about how this partnership came to fruition and how the process has been in creating the show?
The relationship between Red Stitch St Michael’s has been a long one, the obvious one is that of neighbours but also many of the ensemble past and present were once pupils there. The two have always wanted to do something together and when my idea for a show started to come through the Writers in Residence program David Whiteley, Red Stitch’s then AD, felt that it had potential to work as a piece that could incorporate both the company and a large cast of secondary school students.
In the beginning we didn’t know exactly how many students we were going to have in the show, all we knew was that it was going to be somewhere between 8 and 50 so the basic structure needed be able to able expand and contract to allow for this unknown element. I began by creating the four main adult characters, some of the younger characters as well and then the situational location of a community that adhered to alternative lifestyle was added creating a place that could have an almost unlimited amount of support roles for young performers added to it. In the end we had 13 students from St Michael’s working with us with 4 members of the Red Stitch ensemble and all have a speaking role in the work. It’s by far the largest thing I have ever written, most playwright would never have the chance to create something for this many people on stage, it’s a rare privilege to be able to do so.
The Flock and the Nest introduces us to a very intriguing community and two very different families, can you tell us a little more about how these developed through your process?
The idea started out with a much more sect like community but as time went by the piece become more about family and began to focus more on the community as simply a family that has gathered its own traditions and peculiarities over time, like any family really they have their own quirks just in this case it has moved outward to encompass all that live in this one place and is just a little more formalised in its methods and ideology.
The two families in this play for me represent two sides of the same coin really. The coin being the Australian middle classes the two sides merely approach the privileges and opportunities afforded them differently.
You have been Program Manager at Brisbane’s La Boite Theatre Company for about 6 months now, how are you finding your new role?
It’s wonderful. I have always been a bit of a shape shifter when it comes to theatre, always dividing my energy between producing and playwriting so the role encompasses these two often disparate sides of my psyche. Brissy is an extremely vibrant city as far as the emerging arts go. There is always something interesting on if you know where to look…and I really can’t complain about the weather either.
As co-founder of MKA and writer-in-residence at Red Stitch, you have been such a champion for emerging playwrights and original work in Melbourne. How have you connected with independent theatre makers in Brisbane?
By meeting as many people as possible across not just playwriting but dance, poetry, music and visual arts. I find myself thinking about all kinds of work from Live Art to Puppetry and of course plays, it’s all up for conversation and collaboration, which is exciting.
As the writer-in-residence at Red Stitch, how do you think programs such as Red Stitch Writers benefits the independent theatre industry?
Anyone being in residence, director, designer, etc, is uncommon in the small to medium theatre industry, to have this opportunity and have one’s work embraced by Australia’s best actors ensemble is a glorious thing. The fact that I get to create a work just for Red Stitch is a real privilege and a unique way for a playwright to work in this country at least, being about to attribute characters to already existing performers is extremely fun to do. To work with RS’s dramaturgs is an added benefit, working under the wise eye of Gary Abrahams has allowed me to make a work that in any other situation I would not be able to make. To say he has consistently pushed me is an understatement. Programs like Red Stitch Writers in Residence is an wonderful thing and should be applauded.