Award winning playwright Lally Gatz talks about her new Malthouse play Timeshare – a touching and humorous familial relationship play – as well as the special bond she shares with her mum.
Timeshare is the story of mothers and daughters – well, one mother and daughter to be precise – but it is a universal tale that transcends time and place. The setting is a ramshackle resort that straddles the International Date Line because, as Katz explains, director Oliver Butler thought it would be a good back drop.
“Timeshare came about through conversations that I’d had with director Oliver Butler. He and his girlfriend had spent a lot of time in these all-inclusive resorts and he thought they’d be a good world for a play. So I went to a couple for ‘research’. I invited my mother to come, but she declined because she doesn’t like hot weather and being in the sun.”
Katz is quick to explain that this is not an auto biographical tale but does acknowledge her own mother’s influence in her development as a writer as well as some inspiration towards the creation of Timeshare.
” My mother is a big influence on everything that I write because she took me to the theatre when I was a kid and always encouraged my love of writing. I always read everything to her over the phone and she acts as a sounding board. It’s very useful! There’s a little bit of our relationship in the play, but there’s more probably of the director’s relationship with his mother because they’ve been going through certain things, which we explore in the play. But there’s definitely a little bit of my mother written in to the play. My mother always wants everyone to have fun and loves when the family is all together and that’s talked about in the play. I’m very close with my mother in real life and the character of the mother and daughter in the play are extremely close too.”
The play explores the sometimes difficult but always reliable bond between mothers and their children – in particular their daughters – as well as mortality and the really important stuff that has to be worked at in between.
“It explores how fleeting time is and how important it is that we can communicate and talk to our mothers, ” says Katz. “We think that we’re going to have our parents forever and suddenly years pass and they’re older and we’ve become different people too. There is a lot to negotiate with our relationships with our parents in our adult lives. Especially if the responsibility of caring is passed from the mother to the child. It’s important to think about this stuff and explore it, because it will probably be a reality for most of us at some point.’
It is clear that Katz has a deep appreciation for family and all that means. In fact, her family -and communication with her family – is extremely important.
“I talk to my mother and father everyday. They know pretty much everything about me. They are some of my very closest friends. I am also super close with my brother. He makes the world make sense to me when I think that no one can! He always makes me laugh. So do my parents. I find my family really funny and fun. And always supportive. I’m also very close with my brother’s wife. They’ve recently had their first child and it’s fascinating seeing everyone’s role in the family expanding. My sister in law is a mother now. It’s exciting and also scary because when you love someone as much as they and the rest of us love their son, it makes you vulnerable in the world. It makes me think that we’re all only as tough as the most vulnerable person that we love.”
Katz has some very special early memories of travelling to the theatre with her mum. In fact, her mother took her to all ‘kinds of stuff’ when she was a kid. These early formative years were perhaps the steeping stones to the playwright Katz would become but are also memories that resonate between a mother and child.
Says Katz: “When we lived in Miami she took me to see everything from The Nutcracker to the play that the local Junior High School was putting on. In Canberra whenever a show would come to town we’d go to see it. I remember watching Noises Off with her and laughing so hard that I couldn’t breathe. I think that if you see theatre as a kid you’re way more likely to see it and also work in when you’re older. Because you’re imagination has it as a possibility. Seeing shows with my mum opened up my imagination. We always had so much fun too. My mother has quite a good imagination- she was a pre-school teacher for most of her working life and she has kept the magic sort of imagination that kids have, so doing and seeing stuff with her is always super fun because she gets so excited. She’s seeing a lot of kid’s plays by herself in Sydney at the moment in preparation I think for when my nephew’s old enough to go with her! She writes letters to the people who put them on because she loves the shows so much.”
Timeshare, says Gatz, makes you remember to appreciate your relationship and to enjoy it. That it’s easy to take it for granted, even though it’s one of the most important relationships of our whole lives. There’s a lot of fun in the show too, with characters that different age groups can relate to.
Timeshare stars Marg Downey and runs till May 17