Our Father: An interview with the writer

On September 26 – 28 Our Father, the award winning family drama will be presented in collaboration with Union House Theatre as part of the 2019 Melbourne Fringe Festival. 

In light of the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse, Our Father dives into the psychology of a family turned upside down. From emerging writer Lucy Holz and director Meg Taranto, this show rejects the victim-perpetrator narrative of abuse, and instead gives affected families a voice.

A man who is a father, a husband and an ex teacher is about to be convicted, leaving his wife and children to come to terms with who they have been sharing their lives with. As their world is capsized and their memories manipulated they all begin to question; are you guilty for keeping someone else’s secret? Mistrust and guilt seep into relationships and both loyalty and culpability are tested, for no-one is safe from their past. 

A debut production from writer and performer Lucy Holz, first developed in 2018 as part of the Union House Theatre’s Writer in Residency Program, where it was given a staged reading in the Guild Theatre. An excerpt of the show was selected for the 2018 Tastings Festival, with the performance receiving Union House Theatre’s Outstanding Writing Award.

I sat down with the writer to talk about the show.

This is some seriously heavy content matter. What made you decide to write this work in particular?

To be honest, it started out as something I had to do for a class; start writing a show. This was all over the media at the time in light of the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse, and my mum knew someone who was going through loosely what the play is about. It started there, and as I did more and more research and discovery, I realised how important it is that this story is told. 

You are obviously the writer, but you’re also a performer in the show. What has it been like having someone else direct you doing your own work?

It has been very artistically fulfilling actually, and the work has absolutely benefited from it. Meg Taranto is the director and she has found such beautiful intricacies in the text, and created such an incredible world of the play. I’m very grateful to have such a committed and wise creative on board.

Are there any particular elements of this play that make it unique?

I remember going to see a show last year, where one of the lead characters was an indigenous woman. Despite being talked about a lot by the other characters, she was never actually onstage and no actor was playing her. It really made me think about representation and pseudo representation along with the way our stories are told. I thought it would be fascinating if, for once the character we don’t see is the middle aged white man. So although the play is technically all about ‘Our Father’, he isn’t a realised character on stage. Instead the audience can focus on the characters around him, who suffer as a result of his actions. 

What do you hope audiences will take away from the production?

I hope they will look at this issue in a different way, outside of the survivor/abuser narrative. This play looks at people who aren’t necessarily survivors of abuse, but are nonetheless deeply affected by it. I would love audiences to leave with more questions than they came into the theatre with, as this play is more about exploring possibilities than preaching any kind of agenda. 

This is the third staging of this play; the first was a 20 minute reading and the second a 15 minute performed excerpt, both performed in 2018. What’s changed since these earlier renditions?

Most notably, the script itself. This is my first hour long play and it challenged me to write something that would (hopefully) hold an audiences attention for that long. This is a play about relationships and I’ve tried to really focus on that in my rewrites. I’ve also brought in a fabulous director and have a team of designers who are helping create a real production out of this story. 

Why should people come and see this production?

Aside from the typical reasons; female driven theatre, new Australian writing, theatre by young people, it’s good! Which I’m trying to come to terms with saying. It’s such a wonderful and challenging production that is really different to a lot of the other Melbourne Fringe Festival programming. It’s a thoughtful dissection of a really relevant issue in Australia at the moment, and I think it’s an important story to tell. 

Our Father is on next week on Thursday 26, Friday 27, Saturday 28 of September at 7pm, at The Guild Theatre, Union House, Melbourne University, Parkville Campus. Our Father is presented in collaboration with Union House Theatre and Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Buy tickets here

UHT: Our Father

 

Ellie Woods