Water: Exploring History Through Family At Black Swan State Theatre Company

Published in Arts  
'Water' 'Water' Image © Richard Jefferson

Jane Bodie's 'Water' follows the journey of families born at different times throughout Australia's history.


These families are united in their determination to create a safe passage for their lived ones.

The epic new drama marks Clare Watson's first commission as Artistic Director of Black Swan State Theatre Company, and is directed by Emily McLean.

Here, Emily answered some questions about the production.


What interests you about this show?
I’m always interested in new Australian writing – it feels important to bring our stories and our voices to our stages. The unique combination of family drama and historical drama Jane has created is very exciting.

Obviously the themes in this show are quite timely. What can you tell us about how they tie in with certain elements of contemporary society?
This issue of refugees and immigrants has historically always been fraught. We live in a time when the two major parties use these issues to gain votes BUT the tack they take to gain votes is the tack that seems counter to what I think is a universal moral obligation.  Apparently that’s what wins them votes. Is this really true?  And if it is, why? The themes contain issues of morality and specifically a kind of universal moral obligation to humanity, personal safety, home, and the ability to see beyond your own experience.

Why do you think this play is important?
It allows the story of a refugee to be told in the lounge room of a middle class Australian family. It shows middle class Australia listening to that story. It asks us to look at how refugees have been treated across time and if we have learnt anything over history. It looks at a family who really love one another but who also hold different political views and examines what happens when these two things coexist.  

And what resonates for you personally about the things explored in it?
I am fascinated by history and our apparent inability to study it and learn from it. But not in some areas – women now vote but are still don’t get paid the same as men, Aboriginal people are now legally citizens but in health and incarceration statistics are not equal. Families and politics is an interesting intersection for me.

Rehearsals start soon. What is your favourite part about the rehearsal process?
I love being in a room with actors and playing on the floor. I like it when the talking about it has stopped and the playing starts.

Playwright Jane Bodie won the Lysicrates Prize (celebrating new Australian work) recently. Why do you think she won?
Because she’s brilliant.

As Director do you have any particular goals when it comes to how audiences see the show?
I want to take them in to the conflict with a clarity to each side of the story and every point of view that is represented.  

In an ideal world, what is an average audience member thinking and feeling as they leave 'Water'?
They are thinking about our treatment of refugees and their aunty/uncle/sister/brother/parent who they love but disagree with about any of the big ticket issues.

Do you think you'll want to direct more shows with similar themes and ideals as this in the future? If so/not, why?
I want to direct shows that look at any issue that is pertinent to now. We have a lot of outrage at the moment and not many conversations. I’d like to create a space where conversations can occur.

'Water' plays Studio Underground at State Theatre Centre from 9-26 May.

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