Jane Miller wrote her first full length play in 2007 and has never looked back. Her work has been produced locally and internationally and her latest two plays – True Love Travels On a Gravel Road and Motherfucker received rave reviews. Her collaboration with renowned director Beng Oh has culminated in a production company known as 15 Minutes From Anywhere. Her latest work is a piece called Cuckoo written with Miller’s now familiar blend of wit and compassion.
Cuckoo is certainly baffling and particular intriguing when reading the headline: ‘A riddle wrapped in a mystery inside a big box of Lego, Cuckoo is about the return of the prodigal son who just wants to watch television and eat toast.’
This seeming juxtaposition of a couple’s hope and bizarre twist of the nonsensical bring the truth of Miller’s tale its humanity.
For Miller, Cuckoo deals with the ability of people to paper over the cracks in situations, relationships and reality. “The characters all have a sense of absence or loss, in one way or another, that they are looking to fill. That said, the play is essentially a comedy. I am definitely drawn to the way the lens of comedy can expose the serious or tragic aspects of set of circumstances. I am never conscious of it during the writing process but on reflection, I can see it has been a recurring element in my work.”
Miller wrote the play over a period of 6 months after having the basic ideas in her head for a long time before she could make any real attempt to write. It wasn’t until last year, during her studies (Master of Writing for Performance at the Victorian College of the Arts) that she finally got a picture of what the play was. “From then on I very was excited about writing it.” However Miller did work in quite a different way to previous plays usually working through a lengthy development process that often involves the director and actors at an early stage.
“For this play, it was a major piece of work for my Masters course so I worked intensively, over a shorter period with weekly dramaturgical support. Working with a dramaturge is not something I’ve done and I really enjoyed the process and the insight. Starting is always a challenge for me but once I began writing the character of the young man, it was very liberating. He is an anarchic and enigmatic figure within the play and I wasn’t sure where he would take me.”
Cuckoo is being directed by Alice Bishop (co-founder of ITCH productions) whose particular focus and passion is developing and building work in collaboration with other artists. Attributes which are strongly highlighted din the rehearsal room for Miller, who has known Alice over a number of years, and been a huge fan of her work but this is the first time the to have worked together.
“Alice is incredibly smart, supportive and generous as a collaborator and I really enjoy the way she works with the actors in the rehearsal room,” states Miller. ” She directed the very first reading of the play and made a couple of suggestions at that stage that have been really important in its development. She does everything with a lovely sense of humour, calm and style. She has great instincts as a director and I was thrilled that she wanted to direct the production.”
Miller’s plays include Perfect Stillness (Short + Sweet), The Painter (MelBorn –Melbourne Writers’ Theatre), Happily Ever After (La Mama), the R E Ross Trust award winning True Love Travels on a Gravel Road (fortyfivedownstairs) and Motherfucker (La Mama ) When asked about a favourite work, Millers responds: “As a writer, you have a special place for all of the work you’ve written and I’ve been especially fortunate because I’ve had wonderful experiences with each of the productions and the people involved, along the way. I hope Cuckoo is my best work to date because it is the most recent which means I’m developing as an artist.”
Director Bishop describes the piece as a very serious comedy and also a very comedic drama. Miller says Cuckoo is a comedy, a mystery and a tragedy. “It has a wonderful cast in Natalie Carr, Matthew Molony, Samuel Russo and David Kambouris and a brilliant creative team led by Alice Bishop. It has toast. It has Lego. What more could you ask from a night at the theatre?”
July 8 – 26