Jessica Arthur is currently Resident Director at Sydney Theatre Company. In 2018 Jessica directed Lethal Indifference and was assistant director to Kip Williams on The Harp in the South: Part One & Part Two. Here, she discusses some initial thoughts about Lucy Kirkwood's intergenerational exploration, Mosquitoes...
Lucy Kirkwood is definitely the international playwright of the moment. How do you feel about her writing and the prospect of tackling it?
I think Lucy Kirkwood is amazing, like everybody else does, but what is most fascinating about her is that she is so detailed when it comes to research. There are golden nuggets of information in all of her plays and the more you research the more you find these crazy connections between characters and real life; she's clearly burrowed deep into the worlds she is exploring.
Kirkwood often looks at generational impact: the way the decisions of one generation will affect the future of another’s. What I really love about Mosquitoes is that this plays out immediately in front of you. Her other plays Chimerica and The Children are looking at something that's happened in the past and how it affects the present, but in Mosquitoes you're actually seeing many generations play their issues out at once, and seeing how these generational ideas about the universe intersect.
And it's all coming to a head because of this landmark scientific moment, the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider, so it's also interesting to get the generational responses to that as well. Specifically the way fear makes people act and the differences in that response.
There are so many themes in this play... which ones are salient to you?
Fear of science is a massive one – or simply fear of things that are out of your control, like the universe. Mosquitoes also looks at relationships, family, genetics and the way in which people connect, whether they be family members, lovers or colleagues. It’s also about what you carry; what you pass on generationally and genetically – and what you don’t.
What are the main challenges of directing a production with such a broad scope of ideas?
Physics is a huge challenge! I’ve had to learn a lot about particle theory, which is difficult, but the more I look into it the more it surprisingly connects to art, or at least the way that artists look at the world. In physics I was surprised by how much is actually unanswered. Physicists are making these huge – perhaps not assumptions – but they're hypothesising a whole lot of things that might never come into existence, or sometimes they find ways to make them come into existence. Scientists are very creative and adventurous in the way they think.
Lucy Kirkwood's stage directions in this one are amazing. She's pushing the boundaries of what can happen on stage, and how, so we’re looking into illusions and stage magic to actually make a lot of this stuff happen – which will be interesting to navigate!
It's only a cast of eight but they traverse such big themes and ideas that you really need to pay attention to how you stage the intimate and the personal in this world where so many things are exploding and happening. Mosquitoes looks at the everyday domestic, but also looks at the entire universe. To be able to present that on stage is a great challenge.
What kind of reactions are you hoping to get from audiences?
They might be overwhelmed, but in a way that's good. That's my favourite kind of play, where you need a good ten minutes of digesting time before you can talk to anyone and actually deal with that subject. You're fed so much information, and the great thing with Kirkwood is she doesn't feel like she needs to simplify or ‘dumb things down’ for an audience. It's so well researched that the audience can trust that what they are being given is real - and well mined at that. So I think people are going to learn a lot, and really reflect on the way in which the universe and the people within it work. I think it will feel like you travelled to another universe, came back, and are thinking - now what? In an exciting way.
Mosquitoes, 8 Apr – 18 May 2018, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House
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