Interview: Blackrock at St Martins Youth Arts Centre

Blackrock is an Australian beachside working-class suburb where the youth surf by day and rave by night. Desperate to impress, Toby hosts a party at the local surf for his 18th birthday. The following morning, it is revealed that 15-year-old Tracy Warner was killed at the party. As details of her death emerge the boys responsible band together in ‘Mateship’, but can ‘Mateship’ keep their guilt at bay?

Rosie spoke with Director Nicola Bowman about why she chose this script for her Directorial debut, and why stories like this are more present than ever. Read the full interview below:

Nicola Bowman

Loosely based on the 1989 of teenager Leigh Leigh at Stockton Beach in New South Wales, Nick Enright’s Blackrock examines how to behaviours of a small town could lead to such a horrendous act. What made this work stand out as the choice for your Directorial debut? 

This show is a stand out for me as it responds directly to the fears of women living in Melbourne in 2019. In recent years there have been an alarming numbers of attacks on women that echo that of Tracy in Blackrock. I believe it is important for us as a community to discover how and why this has become of pattern of behaviour. 

The event that inspired this work happened in 1989, and the play was first produced in 1995. More than 20 years on, how do you think this play will resonate with a 2019 audience? Do you feel the story has aged at all? 

It would be naive for me to say that this story hasn’t aged at all. Of course in 2019 we have much greater understanding of the patriarchal systems that our society has been built on and I truly believe that we are taking steps to rectify this, even if they seem small. However I can’t shake the feeling that it just isn’t enough. This play was produced the year that I was born and it terrifies me that these heinous crimes are still happening right on my door step. It can’t be a coincidence that these are attacks on women by men. I want to know why and I want to know what I can do. 

As mentioned above, rather than focusing on the assault itself, a spotlight is shone on the residents of the young woman’s town. What do you think we can learn from Blackrock about our own complacency when young women are still being attacked? 

I think we can learn a lot about our own complacency from the young women themselves. They teach us to be loud, brave and unapologetic. They teach us to rage against the dated ideals of those in authority and the follow our intuition when we know something is wrong. They give us the strength to stand up and fight back. A particularly important message following the most recent Australian election results. 

Blackrock is one of a number of plays this year that are coming to the stage to comment on the frightful state of toxic masculinity and its devastating impact on society. Why do you think works such as this are an important vessel to communicate our frustration and anger as women? 

I think this work is an important vessel of communication as it gives a voice to our frustration. It puts a face, a name and a story to our fury. 

I also think it is an important show to join the number of others because it isn’t biased. It goes deeper than rage and shows us the people behind these crimes. The boys and men in Blackrock are not evil. They are the product of a family, a town and a country that has taught them to behave the way they do. It shows us that toxic masculinity passed down through generations has a devastating effect on everyone who comes in contact with it. The pressure that the men in this show are put under is immense and this needs to acknowledged. It is not about placing blame but finding the cause and facilitating change. 

What is unique about this particular production of Blackrock? What do you hope to achieve with this show? 

This production of Blackrock is unique because of its fearless cast. Every rehearsal I am amazed by their generosity and passion for the subject matter. They are being asked to explore the darkest corners of humanity and are doing so with a bravery and honesty I find truely inspiring. 

In staging Blackrock I hope to create an inclusive space for us to reflect and rally. 

RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS: 

 

Favourite production you have ever seen? 

Hadestown at the National Theatre London 

 

You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?

Iceland to see the Northern Lights 

 

Dream show to direct? 

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour 

 

Plays or musicals? 

Shakespeare because it has the spirit of both! 

What’s next for you after this show? 

I am directing a brilliant new play which will be announced very soon! I am also popping the acting shoes back on and will be playing Ava in The Red Tree in August at Arts Centre Melbourne and Bernadette in The Beautiful Game in September for Manila Street Productions. 

Blackrock opens at the St Martins Youth Arts Centre on 25 July 2019. You can get your tickets here.

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