On top of having chalked up a decades-long career as an actor in film, television and theatre, Steve Rodgers has found considerable success as a writer. His first play, Ray’s Tempest, was shortlisted for the Patrick White Playwrights’ Award and his second, Savage River, played successful seasons with Griffin Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company and the Tasmanian Theatre Company. Rodgers recently began adapting that play into a feature film.
In 2015, Rodgers was the inaugural winner of the Lysicrates Prize for new Australian playwriting for his piece Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam, adapted from Peter Goldsworthy’s 1993 novella and dealing with the sensitive issues of euthanasia and suicide. That play will have its world premiere in October at Parramatta’s Riverside Theatres in a production staged by the burgeoning National Theatre of Parramatta.
Before then, however, another of Rodgers’ plays, King of Pigs, will have its own world premiere season – at Sydney’s Old Fitz Theatre.
“It’s a series of reality pockets – different scenarios, that we get a glimpse of, which creates this panoramic view, exploring how men licence themselves to abuse power in their relationships,” Rodgers tells Theatre People.
For him, writing a play is about the coming together of several elements almost like a perfect storm.
“It’s normally something personal – it’s affected me, or someone I know, it’s always social and sometimes political,” he says.
Rodgers discusses his inspiration for penning King of Pigs.
“I witnessed some family violence as a kid, I’m a father of two daughters and a son, and I know the opportunities and playing field for my daughters isn’t equal, and I’m gutted by daily news feeds detailing women – and children – dying at the hands of men.”
Since 2016, King of Pigs has gone through an extended development process.
“I was lucky enough to get development and workshops with Playwriting Australia, and it was presented at the Playwriting Australia Festival in Melbourne,” Rodgers says. “I’ve had a bunch of amazing dramaturgs and actors and directors in conversation with me about it including, significantly, Patricia Cornelius, Kate Box, Kath Tonkin, Emma Jackson, Iain Sinclair, Anne-Louise Sarks, Anita Hegh, Jo Kerrigan and my Mum and Dad.”
The world premiere production, which will host its first audience at the Old Fitz tomorrow night, is directed by Blazey Best, well known to Sydney theatregoers for her impressive performances out the front of the stage. Most recently, she played the coveted role of Mama Rose in Hayes Theatre Co’s Gypsy.
“She has a heart the size of a small Sun, and energy to burn,” Rodgers says. “She’s one of the best actors in the country, is highly sensitive, perceptive, intuitive and has lived this huge life on and off stage that allows her to understand human contradictions, [that] relationships are messy, [that] people who do terrible things are human, and that no outcome is inevitable. I love her and hope she directs more.”
Rodgers also talks about his history with the Old Fitz which, run by Red Line Productions, is today one of Sydney’s most exciting venues for independent theatre.
“I’ve been around since the Old Fitz was born back in the Nineties,” he says. “One of my best friends, Alan Flower, ran it for a while and, to be honest, I’ve had some of my best nights in the theatre in that room as audience. It’s created its own mythology, a kind of holy space, it’s inescapable or something. So with a work as unflinching and raw as King of Pigs,I hope the intimacy allows us to witness something actual.”
Asked if there is an overarching message he’d like audiences to take away from King of Pigs, Rodgers says, “There’s been enormous change between the genders over the last 200 years, let alone the last 40 000 years, we’ve got a long way to go, but it feels like there’s another shift right now, and men have to change with it, so equality is achievable, significant and lasting.”
KING OF PIGS – SEASON DETAILS
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre (129 Dowling Street, Woolloomooloo)
Dates: Wednesday 1 August, 2018 – Saturday 1 September, 2018
Times: Tues – Sat 8pm; Sun 5pm;
Matinees Sat 25 Aug and Sat 1 September 2pm
Tickets: $33.00 – $55.00