BWW Interview: Gita Bezard And Jeffrey Jay Fowler of PERPETUAL WAKE by The Last Great Hunt
Whenever The Last Great Hunt announces a new work, my theatre-loving heart skips a beat or two. They've proven themselves time and time again to be innovators who produce top-notch theatre that has it all: sharp scripts, challenging themes, surprising tech, and engaging performances. Their latest work, Perpetual Wake, written by Gita Bezard and Jeffrey Jay Fowler (henceforth referred to as JJF), opens next week on the main stage at Subiaco Arts Centre. Gita and JJF share some insights into their inspirations and writing process ahead of the show's world premiere.
BWW: The obvious question - where did the ideas for the show come from, and how did you pull them together?
GITA: We were trying to make a show called Good People Do Bad Dance and we were writing one-line stories about terrible people. One was about a writer and a reviewer who took the book too seriously and that one stuck.
JJF: I thought it all came from one long improvisation about a mother bullying her two sons, one who was stupid and ugly and one who was brilliant. Of course, none of that remains in the script. But that was the beginning of the long road exploring shame.
BWW: I'm especially curious about the mechanics of co-writing a script; you've been long-time collaborators and devised shows together, but you've mostly written scripts as individuals, if i'm not mistaken. How has this script been co-created?
GITA: I wrote a very rough first draft that gave us an idea of what form the script might take. Then we decided on what we wanted the story to be and talked a lot. When it came to actually writing it, sometimes we would write a scene each and then swap and edit the other persons (or completely re-write). Other times we work in a Google doc where we can both write at the same time. In that way we can write line for line or tag team sections. We know each other very well so we're ok when the other person deletes things or re-writes them and we also know how to fight for the things we love. It's not a process that I would recommend for people who aren't willing to be a bit brutal with their script but it has worked for us.
JJF: If anything the brutality fed the script. We've entirely rewritten the script numerous times now, thrown out entire storylines, characters, conceits.
BWW: What's so funny about shame and why did you want to explore it - did you set out to write about this theme or did it just emerge in the process?
JJF: What isn't funny about shame? It's a reminder of what weak, silly, insignificant little beasts we are. I don't think there's a day of my life I don't feel ashamed.
GITA: In the original development it was an idea that emerged from a character who was constantly berating people for not being good enough. This evolved into ideas of shame and externalising an emotion that is usually internal.
JJF: We wanted to explore how far shame drives people.
BWW: What have you discovered about your respective arts practices in creating this show?
GITA: I don't think I've ever edited a script so many times, it took a really long time to get the story right, it was very complicated to start with and after many drafts it has become clearer and stronger.
JJF: I've written plays that turn on their head before or consciously shift form, but I have never worked on something that specifically uses a plot twist. Getting that right took a huge amount of time, fidgeting, and collaboration. Working with Gita has been interesting. We have different tastes and sometimes you have to sacrifice something you've written and love to make the whole play work, and that stings. When you're in control you choose which ideas have to be burned, but having to share that control is hard! Luckily Gita and I both have a good sense of humour.
BWW: Looks like we can expect shifting ground in Perpetual Wake - perhaps some unreliable narrators, twists, turns, etc. Should we have a coffee before the show instead of something that might dull our senses? Will we be able to keep up?
JJF: Coffee! Of course. Theatre isn't TV. You should always be sitting forward, bright eyed and thinking. This isn't a show that will spoon feed you.