Mary Rachel Brown is one of this Countries most acclaimed, talented and inspiring playwrights of our time. Jessica Symes from The Symes Report talks to Mary about her upcoming play ‘Silent Night’ and about her insights into the female lens of storytelling and it’s importance to our culture.
JS: Mary, tell us a little about what audience can expect in your upcoming play
‘Silent Night’ and what they can look forward to in a night out at The
MRB: ‘Silent Night’ is black comedy; it’s heightened in style, kinky in nature and
lightning fast. Strap yourself in. This is a wild one; it will make you think the theatre should have seat belts installed.
You will get to meet the Lickfold family who are entering the ARCE
(Australian Regional Christmas Awards) for the thirteenth year. This year
they are determined to win….at any cost.
Here is a little taster of the Lickfold family
Bill (the father) – A doomsday pepper, imagine a poor man’s Bear Grills.
Anne (the mother) - A Christmas obsessed helicopter mother, part Pauline
Hanson, part Mother Teresa.
Rodney (the son) - A highly intelligent low achiever who loves taxidermy
and dabbling in Satanism. Think Marilyn Mason crossed with Julian
Last but not least, there is the unexpected and unwanted Xmas guest. Any
play that’s worth watching has a disruption to the world and this guest is it.
He gives new meaning to the term “Act two surprise”.
In short expect it to be f**king funny, and if it is not ask Darlinghurst Theatre Company for your money back.
JS: What inspired you to write this particular story and are any of the characters
inspired by real people in your life?
MRB: I went out to the Christmas displays in the outer suburbs of Sydney and
interviewed people. I met one couple that were sleeping in their laundry
because their Christmas display was so extensive it had taken over the
interior of their house.
As to people in my own life…I think we are all influenced by these people,
even if their influence works on a subconscious level. With distance, I can
see there are aspects of my family that have crept in there, but they have
been pushed to an extreme to meet the demands of the style.
JS: How important do you think diverse voices and female voices are in theatre,
art and storytelling?
MRB: The most powerful art reflects the hopes, dreams, struggles and failures in
our culture. In order to do this with integrity we need diverse voices,
otherwise, we are not getting the full story, the true reflection. If we do not
have diverse voices, we are miss out on a chance to know ourselves better.
We miss the point of theatre - to recognise who we are, and in doing so
make us feel less alone.
There is a lot of focus on representation of women and ethnic diversity;
this is overdue and great. A big shout out to WITS (Women in Theatre and
Screen) for keeping this issue on the radar. I think the industry also needs to have a good hard look at socio- economic diversity. We still live in a world where art, in most cases, is programmed, created and consumed by the people from the middle to upper class.
JS: From a wider perspective how important is it to hear female voices and
perspectives in all industries and not just the arts.
MRB: It is essential; Positions of leadership and power are still dominated by
men. A pervasive sense of male entitlement will not shift until this inequity
is addressed. I have noticed in the Theatre industry, a lot of young talented males have had meteoric rises to Artistic Director positions. I do not begrudge this, but it troubles me that I don’t see enough of the equivalent meteoric rises
occurring with young female practitioners.
JS: Have you always been a writer and what do you love about it and why are
stories important to our society?
MRB: I used to be an actor; it equipped me with a good feel for dialogue and
character. It also imbued me with a respect for actors because I know
firsthand acting is really hard. I admire actors, especially in this country
where, in most cases, actors only get three-week rehearsal and a
production week. I have also done a few other jobs in between writing gigs, they include; retail, usher, bad waitress, Captain Cook Commentator and a really crap living statue at a wedding fair….the living statue gig was a real low point. Stories are important because they clarify our commonalities and our differences. They help us understand ourselves as a whole. Stories are important because they have the power to produce empathy.
What I love about writing - the agency to create a world. To make a point.
To share what I think is important and give voice to things we find hard to
I love been picked up by a herculean theatre company like
Darlinghurst Theatre Company, that has the guts to produce this bold new
Australian work, and who pays its creatives.
JS: Would you encourage more people to come and see theatre and stories
written by women?
MRB: Because the female gaze offers a different perspective. If we are not curious
about what that perspective is, we will fall into the trap of reductionism
and presumption. The great thing about being a writer is you are not seen,
this can create some interesting gender blindness, I have experienced this
directly. When ‘The Dapto Chaser’ was on a punter came up to me in the
foyer and said “I thought that was written by a fat old guy”, my reply was,
“No, but don’t panic there are lots of them about”. On another occasion, an
actor in one of my plays said “I thought you would be a little old lady with
glasses”. It is so easy to lose curiosity and make presumptions about the
flexibility and muscularity of the female gaze. The way to not do the former
is to see great work by women writers and directors.
JS: If you have never seen a piece of Theatre before or not a frequent arts
patron would you advise to come along to experience your upcoming play at
Darlinghurst Theatre ‘Silent Night’?
MRB: Yes because this play is a servant to my mantra “Theatre should be
entertaining”. People want to laugh, you can feel that collective desire
when you are watching comedy. They want to laugh beyond theatre
manners and etiquette, they want to laugh from the guts, because they
recognise something deeply flawed and deeply human. I think I have
achieved this with this play.
JS: Would you encourage young girls who love to write to pursue their dreams
and what advice would you have for them?
MRB: Grit and persistence are essential, they help you keep perspective.
It is likely you will write some duds, learn from them as opposed to being
defined by them. In short, be kind to yourself. As for your successes (know you will have them) celebrate them, own them and don’t be shy about building on them. Seek out mentors and don’t be shy about asking for help. Learn to tell the difference between valid literary feedback and people just banging on about their personal taste. Walk to your own beat, don’t be influenced by the fashion and taste of others. Plant your flag. Seek out the council of people who are curious about what makes you tick. Every now and then put your hand up before you think you are ready, if you don’t risk doing this it is likely someone less talented, less ready and less qualified will get the gig. Possibly a man.
Don’t piss and moan too much about the hardship of being an artist, it will
bore people and make you unhappy. Remember you chose this path and
you live in a country where you have had the freedom to so.
Most importantly, SUPPORT YOUR FELLOW FEMALE ARTISTS, GIVE THEM A
LEG UP, ACKNOWLEDGE THEM! Yes, I did just yell that, because it is so
important. On that note, thanks for this great question and the interview
Jessica Symes! See you at the show!
By Mary Rachel Brown | Director Glynn Nicholas
Previews: 10 November – 12 November Season: 15 November – 10 December
Tues – Sat: 7.30pm Sun: 5pm Saturday Matinees: 2 December & 9 December at
Duration: 90 minutes
TICKETS AND INFORMATION
www.darlinghursttheatre.com / 02 8356 9987
Standard $54, Concession $44, Groups (8+) $44, Industry* $38,
Under 30* $38, Previews $38 *Available Tue, Wed & Thu Only
SILENT NIGHT CREATIVE TEAM
Playwright: Mary Rachel Brown Director: Glynn Nicholas Production Designer: Hugh
O’Connor Lighting Designer: Richard Whitehouse Sound Designer: Ross Johnston Stage
Manager: Isabella Kerdijk Produced by Darlinghurst Theatre Company
1300 657 934
The Symes Report Magazine