Red Stitch Theatre are set to launch Jurassica – a play about family, loss, migration, communication, displacement, history and dinosaurs.
Playwright Dan Giovannoni has created a heartfelt and humorous portrait of family – past shapes future – about how lived experience backs up behind us, how we walk around on it every day.
For Giovannoni the genesis of the work started because of a few things:
“My dad is an interpreter and was telling me about one of his gigs. I realised how strange it is as a job – that you sit there, between two people who don’t share a language, and try to bridge that gap as best you can. I’d also been wanting to write something about history and inheritance, something multi-generational. Then I listened to the theme song from Jurassic Park slowed down 1000% – it became this epic, mournful piece that went for an hour (https://soundcloud.com/birdfeeder/jurassic-park-theme-1000-slower) – and everything clicked in my brain. That’s how it started. I had to tell it because the experience of the characters in the play is not dissimilar to my own – it’s about disconnection from culture, about family – so part of the writing for me was about admitting to personal truths that were sometimes a little uncomfortable. I’ve been a crap grandson, for example.”
Giovannoni started writing Jurassica to not only deal with his own grief in regards to his family’s migration, but also to explore the disconnect that he experiences between his own Australian identity and his Italian heritage. Like many children of immigrants, Giovannoni cannot identify with being either fully Italian or fully Australian and confides that despite ignoring his family heritage for a long time, his belief is that he can’t really understand his family unless he understands what they went through, how they were raised
The work is the world premiere and the result of two years development with the Red Stitch Writers program, working with the Ensemble and Dramaturge Gary Abrahams.
Giovannoni explains: “The Red Stitch Writers program (now called INK) let the work grow, over time, with the support and assistance of a team of actors. Gary and I did three create developments of Jurassica over about 18 months – I’d bring in text and ideas and we’d try stuff out, read and re-read, pull scenes apart and put them back together again. It was so helpful to have access to their brains – Gary in particular is an amazing storyteller, so even just watching his process was pretty inspiring!”
For Giovannoni the moments of joy in the work happen when we see the family in action. “When we see the links between generations – when someone says something in 1950 that their child repeats 50 years later. My favourite moments usually show the inter-generational relationships, grandparents with grandchildren. That, and the bits about Bruno (the dinosaur).”
Giovannoni is an award-winning playwright, and aside from the critical and box office success, Cut Snake, he has also penned Wrecking and Two By Two. His interest is us – humanity and all that that encompasses. “Without sounding like too much of a wanker,” he says, “I’m interested in how we make and understand the world, what makes us human, how to do human – just simple stuff like that. Looking at the plays I’ve written in past I think there’s maybe a preoccupation with dying and how to live well before that happens. I just had that realisation as I wrote this, though, so once I’ve processed what that means, I’ll let you know.”
Giovannoni admits to ‘a mild obsession with dinosaurs,’ and his reasoning for using these prehistoric creatures as metaphors, if you will, within his epic tale of family makes all the sense in the world. He explains: “When we unearth these creatures from under the ground, I can’t help but think about what the world was once like, how buried under us right now are creatures from the past, humans from the past, wars and invasions and ruins and discovery. In the villages near where my dad was born in, in Tuscany, there are Roman ruins being discovered in paddocks, under houses. We live on top of all that history. It seeps into the soles of our feet. One day, people will discover us and our world too, too, buried deep down.”
For Giovannoni, everyone has a moment or two in their lives where they realise that actually it’s nearly impossible to ignore the past – when you say something and realise you sound exactly like your mum, or someone tells you that you look like a distant uncle you never met. Jurassica is all about that, it talks about a pretty universal experience. It’s also really funny – I might be biased but I spend a lot of time laughing. Plus there’s a dinosaur in it, so…
October 9 – November 7