Cracked Smiles, a complex psychological thriller, is set to open at Chapel Off Chapel later this month. A journey into a hornet’s nest of crazed psychopaths who not only run the asylum but, it seems, the world. The creative by-product of writer, Kieran Gould-Dowen (and production company Thatcher’s Boys Artistic Director), it is a wild ride into a horrific contemplation: What if the whole world was run by a bunch of psychopaths all squeezed under the same roof?
Read on as Gould-Dowen discusses his inspiration for the work, themes explored, his company, why this is a must see show and more.
– what or who inspired you to write this play – why was it something that you felt compelled to write – what significance does it have for you personally
It’s a mixture of things that inspired me to write the play. Firstly, our whole socio-political state at the moment is in quite a mess. There’s a great deal of unrest and corruption and it flows all the way from the top down into our own society too. We’ve made quite a few jokes over the past few years that it feels like we have psychopaths in charge of our futures and it kind of grew into this play. I also had this idea of two men playing a game of chess and discussing their tactics and views on the game, but each discussion meaning more than what they were saying. The image of politics and corporations playing a game of chess, discussing how they play the game, was one that excited me and rapidly expanded into a play about eight psychopaths representing cracks of corruption and watching how they affect each other in different ways. For me, personally, watching the actors explore the text, it’s definitely shown me that the reason we have the situations we do is the cracks of corruption we have in our society feed off of each other, making one another worse. It’s only when we pull them from each other and isolate each issue, they all lose their power.
– what are some of the themes explored – what are you saying with your work
The great thing about this show is you can take whatever you want from it as a theme and message. All of the text, each moment, each action, it’s all a metaphor for something much bigger. But how each person interprets that metaphor is up to them. I think the issues will resonate with different people. The main message from my point of view, however, is that the system is meant to work for us, the common people. But most of us enjoy this concept of ignorance is bliss that we surround ourselves with, and tell ourselves we can’t make a change. But if we somehow found the strength to take back control, we could make the system work for us. It’s definitely a key story in the show with the nurse, Luna, representing us and being manipulated and played for so long until she finally realises she has the right and the strength to do what needs to be done.
– as a creative, what sorts of themes and genres interest you the most and why
For me, I love exploring humanity and what it really means to be a human. Most of our past works have really explored that in different ways. I like to take real people and stick them in situations that are out of this world and really expose who we are as a race. Although I’ve been writing for six and a half years now, I definitely think in the past twelve months with the company, I’ve found my voice and what I do best, and that is challenging my audiences to take a long look at our ugly reflections and making them question their own behaviours and choices. Theatre used to be about entertaining and distracting. And I think that’s important, and I definitely include humour in my work. But for me, I have a responsibility to inspire change with my work. I want to do my part in helping create a society and world that I feel happy bringing children into.
– tell me something about your company – genesis – philosophy – achievements to date – future work
My company Thatcher’s Boy Theatre was officially founded at the start of 2017 after we completed a sold out season of my play Take A Seat at The Butterfly Club. The play looked at a bunch of strangers in a waiting room after death who were told to simply take a seat and await their decision. The play went onto do a successful run at Chapel Off Chapel last August. Since then, we have taken my new shows ‘Continue Without Saving?’, ‘More Pudding Anyone?’, ‘Hold Me, I Beg You’, and ‘Fall On Death Ears’ to The Butterfly Club, and now ‘Cracked Smiles’ to Chapel Off Chapel once more. We also have a show called The Execution Will Not Be Televised being performed at The MC Showroom in November which can be simply described as Black Mirror on stage, as it’s a live TV studio where three criminals will be executed and one allowed to walk free.
The company name was inspired by my favourite film A Knight’s Tale, where the main character is just “the thatcher’s boy” and people refuse to believe he can achieve anything more. A key line in the film is “a man can change his stars” and it’s a philosophy I have lived my life by. It also inspires every decision we make as a company. We represent the little guy. Over the next few years, I hope that the company grows and we have other new writers, directors, producers, and actors, all bringing their work and skills to us, wanting to achieve their dreams and needing someone to give a helping hand.
– finally, what would you say to entice an audience to attend
Cracked Smiles has everything you could want in a show. The material itself is thick with so much to think about. But it’s also entertaining, and has a lot of heart in it, which you wouldn’t expect from a line up of psychopaths. You’ll find yourself laughing at more than you expect. Which is both great yet concerning at the same time. The actors are phenomenal and have brought such charm and uniqueness to their roles, the director is really giving them a space to flourish, we are getting really creative with the technical aspects of the show, and there are some real moments that make your hairs stand on end. Even I’m blown away sometimes and I wrote it. So if you want theatre that won’t just make you laugh and smile for two hours but be something that you’ll think about for weeks afterwards, Cracked Smiles is definitely that show. And hey, it’s a new original works in Melbourne. New theatre is always exciting. Sometimes you stumble across a diamond that’s not been found yet.
July 17 -22