Inside Out, a new play by Donna Bradshaw and presented by Four Letter Word Theatre at La Mama, examines the progeny of the voices in our heads that may haunt, often deride but certainly remain a constant throughout our lives.


Sara Tabitha Catchpole is the founder of Four Letter Word Theatre and, if the legend is correct, she founded FLWT in 2010 in order to produce the practical components of her thesis – ‘The Problematics and Pragmatics of Feminist Directing: Staging Male-Authored Female Character’ – while studying Creative Arts at Melbourne Uni. Catchpole has been no slouch since 2010 with directorial credits including: The Blue Room, Phaedra’s Love and FLWT’s first musical, Nine. She produced Closer in early 2011 and her other talents include costume design, set design, production manager and graphic design to name a few. Currently Catchpole is directing Inside Out for La Mama, a script she came upon working at La Mama: “After several staff at La Mama saw shows I had directed in 2010 (David Hare’s The Blue Room and Sarah Kane’s Phaedra’s Love – both with Four Letter Word Theatre) they asked me to begin work as a Script Appraisalist. Early last year I came across Inside Out by Donna Bradshaw. The script originally was very naturalistic but I chose, once casting and rehearsals began, to strip away a lot of that naturalism and create something focused more on the senses of the audience. Focussing on the sound for the production and its eerie undertones, I was able to centre the show on a feeling rather than idea,” she says.

Inside Out is a new work, and as Catchpole comments, new works can be an exciting adventure for a production company: “Inside Out is the first new work I have directed. It has been exciting to work on a piece of theatre that no one has seen or read before. There are no pre-conceptions about this text for the audience which as a director, who usually produces well known contemporary works or Shakespeare, it has really highlighted the possibilities made available to myself, the actors and designers in creating a piece of work which will surprise and be completely fresh for an audience.”

Actor Angus Cameron, playing Brad, concurs: “One of the most exciting things about it is that it is a completely new work, set in contemporary Melbourne. It's not often you get the chance to be the first person to put a stamp on a character and bring it to life without being affected by someone else's portrayal. Moreover, it is exciting to depict Melbourne and Melbourne people.”

The plays ensemble cast meant that Catchpole had to find a group of actors who complemented each other “…both with exciting chemistry and combative clashes.” She feels secure that her cast of Madeleine Ryan, Petra Elliott, Luke Lennox and Angus Cameron have what it takes to “bring this new work to life.”

“I’ve always had such a clear idea of what the end product would be and being able to convey that to the actors right from the get-go meant that the collaborative work we did always went back to the original concept and central themes in the piece. Madeleine Ryan, as Naomi, has been on board since March last year, with the rest of the characters being cast in August. We have discussed our understandings of family and the expectations involved which is a theme prevalent in the script,” she says.

Best laid plans go awry however as Catchpole discusses a slight hiccup when “only a week out from opening an actor had to drop out of the show for health reasons.” Catchpole has taken the pivotal role of Victoria herself and feels that this new dynamic will keep thing fresh and spontaneous. “The character of Victoria has been particularly difficult to place,” says Catchpole. “As she neither fits in the physical nor metaphorical world. Deciphering if she is an entity which visits Naomi or a part of Naomi’s sick mind has been constantly at the forefront of our minds throughout the rehearsal process. We have settled that she is completely part of Naomi – the worst most sick part. This part of Naomi is personified by her mother – with whom she had a twisted and abusive relationship.”

Madeleine Ryan, playing Naomi, adds further insight into her character and process: “Naomi is a very dependent creature. Getting inside her heart and her psyche has been a difficult and a profoundly moving experience. She needs mum, she needs dad's approval, she needs love, love, love. It brought out the little girl in me ! The little girl who didn't want to be left at school … Who was intimidated by other girls. I started going back to all my childhood foods (teddy bear biscuits with butter, Vegemite toast The Way Dad Made It, Ice Magic, porridge with half a jar of maple syrup The Way Mum Made It …)”

“The frightening thing about playing Naomi, is that I discovered things about myself that I didn't realise, or didn't want to acknowledge. Everything she feels is very close to the surface, she is impulsive, she lashes out. She needs you and she needs you now. Naomi is like a pacing hyena who will eat you up or fall into your arms at any moment. Taking her on has been really challenging and I suspect shaking her off will take quite some time. That said, there's something liberating about having an impulse and riding it out to its bitter, twisted end … But you didn't hear that from me.”

Catchpole’s dedication and commitment to making quality theatre is clear when she says: “My focus when creating productions from the design to the performers is always to keep the audience in the forefront of my mind. They are who experience the piece – and are therefore whom the piece should be created for. I think a lot of contemporary theatre makers focus too heavily on the process and forget the outcome. A positive outcome for me is to purely entertain the audience, perhaps though, with a twinge of discomfort – for without that, how do you know you’re living?”

And  the final word must go to fellow TP’ite. Angus Cameron: “I’m in awe of the way the others (the girls) have taken their characters on board; while I just stand around topless making out with Maddy, she has to deal with multiple personalities, mood swings and schizophrenia.”

Four Letter Word Theatre presents Inside Out at La Mama Courthouse  February 22 – March 11

Inside Out from La Mama Theatre on Vimeo.