Opening at the Malthouse next month, Alison Croggon’s fabulous new play, My Dearworthy Darling, promises an unforgettable night at the theatre. Written especially for ambitious and feminist theatre company, The Rabble, it is a work that spans centuries – poetic, insightful and beautifully troubling, it’s a play, says Croggon, that follows a fracturing psyche in the process of breakdown.
“There are familiar, mundane realities at work in the play – the dehumanisation of shit jobs, the kinds of lateral violence people can practice against each other when they’re under pressure, the way women can be gaslit when they cease to do what’s expected of them,” Croggon explains. “It’s also drawing on the voices of mediaeval women mystics, voices that speak to us still all these centuries later because they’re trying to describe states of being that words will not express, and I guess here are speaking towards a longing for unity and wholeness in a fractured world.”
Croggon is not sure that it’s a play with a message as such, though, she concedes, it does suggest that we have very impoverished ways of dealing with our crises. “I think it’s a play about how one particular woman finds a ways to survive brokenness. I hope that people find it truthful and beautiful and moving,” she says.
A collaboration of around three years in the making, when Croggon and The Rabble partnership (Kate Davis and Emma Valente) first met to discuss Croggon’s writing a text specifically for the kind of theatre The Rabble make.
“We’ve known each other for a long time – in Kate Davis’ case, for around two decades – and working together seemed like a logical development,” says Croggon. “The Rabble make poetic theatre, I write poetry. I had a residency coming up in France at the National Centre for Theatre Writing at La Chartreuse, and so I had some space. I suggested doing something about mediaeval women mystics, because I’ve been obsessed by their writing for a long time, and then (of course) I came back with something that was quite different from what I had suggested.”
Croggon acknowledges that the collaboration has been brilliant and supportive from the beginning. “It feels like we’re all on the same page, that we’re speaking across different disciplines with the same desire in front of us.”
Ground breaking theatre company, The Rabble, was formed in 2006 from a desire to make work that wasn’t being produced in Australia. There aim was to create work that was visually ambitious, political, feminist and formally experimental. Forged on a deliberate movement to abandon male-dominated play scripts and replace them with an improvisational methodology using poetry, prose, image, tableaus and gesture. One can see how the Croggon, Davis and Valente triumvirate would successfully conceive, My Dearworthy Darling – a beautifully constructed and poetic work for women.
Croggon is straight forward on the question of the vital need for the creation and staging of more work with female voices. Her view is that we always need more kinds of stories, and more ways of telling them. “All the people who are not straight white cis abled men have a lot of catching up to do on the Anglo stage,” she states. “It’s been more than two millennia of marginalisation, and it’s getting old.”
Croggon is a poet, playwright, fantasy novelist and librettist. Her work has been described as sensual, passionate, intellectually complex, delicate, hard-hitting and honest. She has always been conscious as a writer that female voices are marginalised, and this awareness enters her work in various ways. Specifically, Croggon, has, in fact, published nine collections of poems, nine novels, including commercial fantasy and literary fiction (with a couple more on the way at the moment) and over the past couple of decades she has had 16 plays or libretti produced in Australia. Plus, of course, a load of journalism, criticism and essays. (Croggon won the 2009 Pascall Prize for Critical Writing for her blog Theatre Notes)
Croggon is quick to admit that some people hate her work while other people love it. As far as her style, well, that is a harder question for her to answer, but she’s pretty sure that you can tell that all these different kinds of work are by her, because there’s a certain sensibility at work behind them.
As for favourite genre and themes and plots? It’s whatever she happens to be working on! ” I write across genres because I enjoy working in all those different forms,” she says. ” At the moment I’m working on a fantasy adventure book for 8-12 year old readers (which is new for me, I’ve mostly written for a slightly older audience), a creative non fiction memoir for Scribe Publications and I’m co-writing a science fiction series. Most of my novels are YA, and they’ve covered the range from full-on epic fantasy series (which is my most successful to date, and has sold over half a million books) gothic fantasy, to a little parable about climate change.”
“Recently I’ve been looking at my theatre texts, because I’ve published four of them into a book – which will be on sale at the Malthouse for anyone interested! They’re close to my poetry, in that they emerge from places of trauma and violence, especially but not only violence against women, and they tend to have a preoccupation with a certain kind of transcendence. I guess? I am very interested in the embodiment of language.”
From award-winning writer, Croggon, and award winning theatre practitioners, The Rabble, comes a work that is sensitive, beautiful and honest – My Dearworthy Darling is a must see!
“It’s been the best process of development I’ve ever been involved with,” says Croggon. “It’s being directed by wonderful artists – Emma Valente and Kate Davis – and I am thrilled with the cast – Jennifer Vuletic, Ben Grant and Natalie Gamsu. There’s also a chorus of seven. There’s a lot of very smart, passionate minds working on this show. I get excited every time I think about it. I think (fingers crossed, I don’t want to jinx them) that it’s going to be beautiful.”
August 2 – 18
Images: David Paterson