ARTS - Keeper Interview
Author: Darryn King
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
Are you OK to start the interview now-
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I have to warn you though, I don’t usually make a very good interview subject.
Well, that’s alright – that’s what editing is for.
I’m not really introspective about my ‘method’ and things like that, about why I wrote the play.
That’s actually a good point to start with then: you’ve made the comment that the play isn’t supposed to be a social commentary or a psychological examination… it’s just a detective story-
Yeah, well, that’s how it started out. I don’t start with a thesis… I believe that if my writing says anything it springs from the subconscious and not through any conscious desire to articulate an idea. It’s just what works for me – in no way am I deriding writers who do start with an idea. I know some writers do and I know it works for them. I tried writing like that before but it just didn’t work. Often I’ve been asked, ‘What are you trying to say-’ And I think it’s a shame that most people think the only way to write a play is to start with a thesis. For me it’s about the voices in my head – they start having a conversation, and sometimes it leads somewhere, other times it doesn’t.
Your play was directly inspired by an event that happened in your teenage years, wasn’t it-
Yes, when I was a teenager, still in high school, a couple of guys I knew got involved in a brawl at a party, during which another kid was killed, and they had to go on the run. This was back in Western Australia, so they went out to Kalgoorlie for a couple of weeks…and then came back. But this was the inspiration for the story – it wasn’t until about 15 years later that I actually started writing the play.
There must’ve been a therapeutic aspect in committing the story to paper-
Yeah, well, it was haunting me all that time.
And Keeper opens just after the fight-
Kevin and Neil have come to Russell from the fight at the party. They’ve briefly explained everything that happened and Russell is dubious about their need to go on the run. They’ve come to him for two reasons: they need money, and they also need his expertise as an ex-criminal.
The story also takes place in real-time – is it difficult to pull this off-
It’s very challenging to lock some characters in a room and have the drama unfold in real-time because you don’t get to use wicky-wacky theatrical things – deviations, or characters coming forward and talking to the audience… It made more sense to have it told in real-time.
Tell us about the setting of the play, because since the previous productions of Keeper, you’ve changed the setting from a living room to a factory…
It was more pertinent to set it in the factory as opposed to a living room, because the answer turns out to have been staring Kevin in the face all along… But that’s all I’ll say about that. The other thing was I was inspired by a couple of other plays I read – most recently David Harrower’s Blackbird. I worked in a lot of factories when I was young and I pretty much knew the layout of a factory lunchroom, and I was just inspired to set it in a factory lunchroom. It’s a good place to set a play because a factory is as big as you like. You get this idea that there’s this whole different world just beyond the exit.
It being based on a real-life event from your teenage years, is watching Keeper a bit like reliving your past-
I’m pretty detached from the real-life event, myself… Watching it is actually very relieving… to see that something of mine is actually being put on. ‘Cause it’s a pretty sparse territory out there for young playwrights. Playwriting at the moment is like standing on the edge of a cliff and yelling out to the ocean. There’s no one there.
Such a bleak note to end the interview! The good news is the play is opening next week…
I was actually shocked when it all happened. I’m dead pleased I have to say. And I said I have 100 per cent faith in Paul Barry and the producer Karen Boach. They seem to be really on the ball.
WHERE: Belvoir St Theatre
WHEN: Wednesday 5 March – Sunday 23