Declan Greene is a name I am constantly hearing uttered by our colleagues making theatre in Melbourne, so when his play The Plague Cyclehit my desk it went straight to the top of my To Read pile. The first few pages announced this was a play that demanded to be noticed and by the time I had reached the end of the script I was convinced of its author's gift for telling dark, twisted tales with heart and humour. STC has since established a relationship with Declan and in November 2010 invited him into the company for the first time to develop a play called Pompeii L.Awith director Daniel Schlusser as part of our Rough Draft program.
Declan's first major commission came when his work caught the attention of Chris Kohn, the artistic director of Arena Theatre who is well known in Melbourne for his collaborations with Victoria's most exciting new playwrights. Partnering with Malthouse Theatre, Chris commissioned Declan to write a play called Mothwhich was eventually produced as part of the Malthouse Tower Season in 2010. When the show went on sale it sold out almost immediately, and then returned for another season.
When I met with Declan in Sydney recently I asked him about his winter workload: like any ambitious artist, he responded that he currently has several pots on the boil. A collaboration with Thomas Wright (who Sydney audiences will best know as the leading man in our recent production Baal) has been stimulating his theatre brain, challenging Declan to work in a way that is entirely new to him: "We did a two week intensive development where three actors were subjected to what I guess you would describe as endurance circumstances. We were on a farm and Thomas Wright [who is acting as director on this project] asked the actors to do these extended - and by extended, I mean six hour! - improvisations in the rain, trying to induce a state of hysteria in the actors. My job has been transcribing the words of the actors but finding a greater dramatic structure to fit them into. It's a very different way of working that I find really stimulating."
Declan's theatre work may take him to glamorous destinations such as the rain drenched Victorian farm but - as is the case with many of our finest playwrights - it's his work in television that currently pays the bills. I often hear playwrights complain that TV gigs are creatively unsatisfying, however, Declan claims to enjoy writing for another medium: "it's so quick: In theatre things stay in development for centuries and centuries whereas in TV once something gets green lit everything starts rushing at a million miles an hour. I find it exciting because it means the first spark of inspiration gets carried through to fruition in a really short intense period of time. I like working under pressure so it suits me!'
Beyond his solo career as a playwright, Declan is also one half of an outrageous theatre making duo called The Sisters Grimm. For the last five years he and actor Ash Flanders have been applying DIY values to making high camp, trash theatre. The shows are responsive to whatever they are obsessed with at the time, be it disaster movies, sexploitation films or mainstream theatre (their show The Rimming Clubwas written in response to the MTC hit show, The Swimming Club). When we met, I asked Declan to describe The Sisters Grimm ethos. His reply: "We don't make beautifully crafted pieces of theatre. The shows are falling apart at the seams and really rowdy and ragged. We try to make them accessible to everyone; not just the regular theatre crowd. We want our plays to be to mainstream theatre what punk is to classical music. We want people to have a rowdy night in a theatre space. Audiences love live music and comedy because they offer a fun, live experience; and theatre should be doing that as well."
STC Literary Manager Polly Rowe
Feature: About Declan Greene
Date posted: 3 Jun 2011Author: STC