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ARTS - The Kid Interview

Author: Darryn King
Thursday, 20 March 2008
Michael Gow wrote The Kid in 1983, a story preoccupied with death and disillusionment set after the downfall of the Liberal Government in the Federal Election. Directing the play 25 years later, Tom Healey is struck by how similar the political climate is in 2008. He spoke with Darryn King.

Can you first tell us a little about the story of The Kid-
It’s the story of three young kids, a sister and two brothers, from somewhere in southern NSW. It starts like a road trip – they’re on their way to Sydney. The eldest brother was hit by a bus a couple of years before. He’s a bit simple. And they’re pursuing a compensation case to get money for him. So they steal a car, they hit the highway, they stop in a café on the way and pick up a closeted young gay boy. When they get to Sydney they’re expecting to go to Centrelink, do the last interview… but when they get there and it all smashes up in their face.

Do you think the play will resonate with audiences as well as it did 25 years ago-
Oh, absolutely. One of the things that struck me when I read it was, when he wrote it, it was just at the end of the Fraser era, with all the social security and welfare and health stuff getting cut to ribbons… It was just as the Labor party was getting elected, just as Bob Hawke came in. And it was the end of this huge Liberal-driven squeeze, which amounted to a lack of community, a lack of thought about community and care and so on.

And the fascinating thing is that we’re in exactly the same place, coming out of 11-and-a-half years of the Howard government slashing and burning everything. Our sense of community and tolerance and social values – as everyone’s been discussing recently – was completely eroded by that government. It’s bizarre that we’re in almost exactly the same place. So the timing is amazing.

So the play is set today, rather than 1983-

Yes, it is. We’re being a little bit fluid with that. There’s a slideshow in it, for example, which, if we were really going to be rigorous about setting it in 2008, would be a PowerPoint demonstration. It suits us better that it’s a slideshow so we’ve left it there. But yes, we are setting it now.

The play starts with a physical journey – is it an emotional journey as well-
Oh yeah, it’s massive. I mean, what Michael’s writing about – which I think is the preoccupation in all of his plays – is our obligations and our needs as a community. He writes about how intolerant, cruel and harsh the world can be for people who aren’t rich and don’t have education at their fingertips. The world can be a very tough place. It’s a very passionate argument for community and the need for it, and that we’re all responsible to look after each other. That’s the big theme of the play.

He’s a great humanist, Michael, he always writes plays where people are in a lot of need.

And also he’s very funny. I’ve said a lot about passion and fury and anger and hostility and whatever – I’d really love to balance that idea by saying it’s an incredibly funny thing. It’s just very human and very real. It has many funny sequences that are very… life-affirming, actually.

WHAT: The Kid at the SBW Stables Theatre
WHEN: Wednesday 19 March – 26 April
MORE: griffintheatre.com.au

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