Two-time Logie Award winner Libby Tanner stars in Burning – Verity Laughton's sensitive, poetic and historical journey into a ghostly realm.
The story profiles June Matthews, an ex-dancer, and her history professor husband, Stephen, who return to her grandmother’s large stone house by the sea immediately after the publication of Stephen’s latest, and most controversial book. June finds the skeleton of what turns out to be a 14-year-old Irish servant girl, Lizzie, from the previous century. So begins the haunting tale of Burning – a ghost story that not only takes white Australians back to their roots but examines the human condition in all its frailty.
Burning is an Award Winning Australian play and Tanner concurs that it has had a profound effect on all who read it describing Laughton as an exceptional playwright. "Such a strange quality woven in depths of struggle, pain and beauty. I was instantly drawn to it – felt " The Pull" to honour this remarkable story of courage, hope and new beginnings."
Tanner has been a beloved Australian staple for many years with acting credits in: All Saints, Pacific Drive, Rescue: Special Ops, Fireflies, Headland to name just a few. She tells me ,however, that her first role was not a big TV gig but rather took place in her year 10 drama class in 1985. After a shaky audition, her teacher gave her the role of Eliza Doolittle in the play Pygmalion. Tanner admits to being terrified but feels that that now prophetic teacher must have detected a strength there.
Tanner is playing the role of June and admits that the character is taking up every spare pocket of her time and head space. "The role is incredibly demanding emotionally," she says. "I am an independent mother of three children, so I'm always conscious of reserving some energy for their needs too! The role is exhausting, exhilarating and somewhat spookily reflective of my life as it turns out. Burning has an enormous significance to me. Fortunately I'm experiencing a mini breakdown of sorts – so the timing's just right !!" In amongst it all though Tanner shares a new found truth: "No matter how bad a situation is – you can always rely on yourself for your truth and wisdom to move forward."
The play is being directed by Mockingbird Theatre Artistic Director Chris Baldock who Tanner describes exuberantly as fantastic. "He has a remarkably intuitive sensory system. He uses his Super Hero director radars to pinpoint the nuance of the work swiftly ( sometimes with a strained look on his face ) but always with invaluable experience and integrity. All you really have to do is plug into his slipstream – relax with the groundlessness of the situation and by the 2nd or 3rd run – your in the dance. Working with Chris reminds us all why we're part of the theatre – to tell the story – honour the playwright and the audience and to simply enjoy the process."
"The biggest challenge has been the rhythm of the dialogue – easy to let it become too serious because of the plays themes. You only have to look up, when you get into a bog, and see the look of constipation on Chris' face…. lets you know you need to move it along, reconnect and lighten the hell up !!"
Burning is being produced under the joint banner of Geelong Production Company and Mad As Us – the latter, Tanner tells me, is a dream come true. "It was always a dream of mine to start a theatre company," she says. "I'd done many years of theatre and discovered my strength for storytelling on the stage. '… there's always somewhere where you first know who you are.' June – Burning."
Tanner adds: "Burning has also been the most difficult play for me to date. Here's hoping it pays off. It has been truly inspirational."
June 28 – July 6
Venue: Courthouse ARTS: Geelong. courthouse.org.au