"I am most interested in telling stories that NEED to be told. I feel that theatre is still a very relevant and real forum for community engagement, but somewhere along the way it was hijacked and turned into an exclusive and expensive form of entertainment only available for those that can afford it." Joanne Trentini
Playwright Joanne Trentini's new project, Mothersmilk, is a story that NEEDS to be told and one that was born from a very personal and deep fount. "In 2006 I was diagnosed with depression," offers Trentini simply. "The most surprising thing about the experience was the difficulty I had accepting the diagnosis, the shame and how isolated it made me feel. I consider myself a very accepting person, I would never have thought I would discriminate on the basis of something as incontrollable as a disease, but I had, and as a result I was terrified of admitting this diagnosis to others in case they shared my view. I was lucky though, my family and friends didn’t turn away from me, they supported me through my darkest times, helped me see that my disease is like any other, it wasn’t my fault and as long as I am working hard to be as well as I can, I should be proud of myself. mothersmilk is my way of spreading this message. As a community we need to get a conversation started about mental health and dispel the stigma surrounding its sufferers. The more we talk about it, the more we will all understand and the more we all understand, the less scary it will be for its sufferers to speak up and access the support they need."
The play chronicles the life of Kitty, an ordinary woman living an extraordinarily complicated life. An early morning surprise visit instigates a series of choices; leading her on a journey to discover a side of herself she doesn’t want to know. Struggling with the consequences, Kitty understands one thing – she is everything that no one wants to be. In this piece, Trentini seems to want to hold the mirror up to herself and use this as inspiration for her work in fact she finds that all of her work is cathartic in some way, shape or form, because, she believes, to understand a character and their challenges helps her to understand part of herself and her challenges. "I have been an actor for the last 10 years and have helped tell many different stories," she says. "This is the first time I have told one of mine. As most people would agree, talking about your intimate self is a very scary thing, but if I want others to speak up and share their experiences, what better way to get the conversation started then by sharing mine first."
For the most part, this is Trentini's story so who better to perform and thereby explore the nuance and process of this piece than Trentini herself. A playwright/performer could be a problem for some but Trentini takes it all in her stride. "I was very clear with myself and the ensemble, that although I had written this piece, it was merely the blueprint for the final product," she explains. " I knew that if I didn’t hand over the work to the ensemble it would become an act of ego and this would negate the reason for this project in the first place. I am passionate this story and my fellow cast members and musicians have been incredibly generous in helping it be the best it can be. So although it WAS mine, it is now OURS, and that is something I will always be thankful for. When we entered this process we only made one rule, to tell the story as clearly as possible, whether it be through action, image, music or voice, hence why it has emerged as a piece of fusion theatre."
Mothersmilk is presented by The Other One Productions which was created in 2012 by sisters Joanne Trentini, Renee Trentini and Kathryn Hooper and is passionate about delivering theatre that is experiential rather than intellectual. Their belief is that a story that is experienced creates much more of an impact than if it is intellectually understood. "So we would hope that our audience takes away a visceral understanding of the story so they can search for their own intellectual understanding of the story themselves," she says.
Trentini's firm belief is that: "Theatre should be a place for our community to share our stories with each other, dream and experiment with possibilities for the future, so as a community we can decide how we want to move forward. So as a playwright I am enticed by real stories, relevant to myself and my community’s everyday life. In this particular work, I feel that it began as my story, but it has now evolved into our story (the ensembles). This means that the process itself is already serving the original motivation for me wanting to share my experience, to create understanding and fight prejudice. So that is a great result already!"
Mothersmilk 31 October – 11 November
fortyfivedownstairs: 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne City