To be asked, in life, to survive the devastating loss of a child is unimaginable – how does a mother seek solace? – where does a mother find relief? This is Bridgette Burton's Rhonda Is In Therapy.
Burton's ultimate inspiration for this work was her son. "Having a child and being confronted by the extraordinary love and responsibility that being a parent brings gave me a new, intense perspective," she says. "I suddenly, and jarringly understood what it meant to feel that you would give your life for another and that the loss of that other would be unbearable. I tried to make sense of how parents continue on after the death of a child and thus Rhonda was created. A woman who continues on after the death of her child, but only by doing something extraordinary."
Burton is the incredibly proud recipient of The R E Ross Trust Playwrights' Script Development Award 2009. This is the second time she has received it and in both instances, she says, it has made an incalculable difference to the quality and breadth of the works. "To receive any award is very affirming and positive, it has helped me to feel that my peers are encouraging me and that my work has been recognised as worthy of support, explains Burton." It also gives me a sense of legitimacy as a writer, which in turn helps me write. Money and support towards development are very important, I think that a lot of scripts are under developed at performance and that money invested in this area is integral to the quality of theatre that we see."
The Award has also allowed Burton more time to write as well as address some of the other challenges involved in bringing a work from mind to paper. "As a mother with a part time job most of my writing is done at night – after a full day of everything else. I often write in my head, or speak into a recorder or make notes during the day, but it's rare that I would have a whole day to work on something, she says. "I was lucky enough to be able to work on this play with an amazing cast and director – this was via the RE Ross Trust Award – and it meant that I had valuable time in the rehearsal room watching the actors breath life into my characters and then extend them – beautifully. This allowed me to finish the first draft. I draft slowly, and often tend to make changes and then leave a script for up to a month before I go back and look it over again – this is part necessity (time, again) and part my natural process. I have a few selected people that read my work, it is most important for me to have people looking over the movement of the piece – it helps me to continue on the most direct journey for the characters. But this presents it's own challenges – when you ask people to read your work, you need to consider their feedback – I have to be thick skinned, flexible, resolute and open minded. And I'm not necessarily any of those things when I am writing… But I am trying to be."
Looking at Burton's work (which includes her last long work Killing Jeremy) it could be said that she seems very interested in exploring death and reactions to death however that may be a far too shallow interpretation. "I think that in actual fact I am most interested in the ways that ordinary people can be pushed to become extraordinary, strange and uncomfortable," she says. "I am always interested in the way that normal, fairly middle class characters cope with increasingly difficult emotional challenges. Ultimately anything that presents strong dramatic tension can pique my interest – the things that do that are often quite oblique."
Burton's hope is that the play gives audience something to think about, feel for and be interested by – something I'm sure we all hope for when attending the theatre.
Rhonda Is In Therapy
Hoy Polloy Theatre Productions and Baggage Productions
7 – 23 September 2012
Rhonda Is In Therapy photo: Fred Kroh