“Drug abuse drives you crazy!” is a horror story told to our youth, in every community, yet how many listen?
For playwright Meg Spencer investigating the pervasive influence of drug abuse in Australia, as well as the merry-go-round of loss, loneliness, horror and abhorrent gain that accompanies the abuse, was an important influence when it came to writing the work.
"The original influence for this work is so far removed from what the play is now, but without it there would probably be no Glasshouse," Spencer explains. " I used to live in a fairly drab apartment block in St Kilda East. I had a very intense neighbor, she barely left her place and when she did she wore dark ‘speed-dealer’ oakleys and ran. My housemate and I concluded she held the stock for her dealer husband and from there I began to write her story."
"Some weeks later, my partner showed me an article about a crystal meth syndicate that had been cracked in his hometown in regional Vic. Of the seven young people they named, he knew five of them. In rural cities and country towns it’s more like two degrees of separation as opposed to six, therefore one person can very easily drag a whole community down."
"So the story I was writing about my neighbor, quickly morphed into a script, becoming much more specific. I now felt a need and urgency to write the play."
While Spencer didn't write with themes in mind, drug abuse and, more specifically ‘ice’, is the big obvious one. The multi – tasking Spencer is also an actor in the piece taking on the role of Jane, a twenty something who, along with her husband and neighbor spiral into the land of drug abuse. It is in the guise of actor that Spencer is exploring the piece with new eyes and admits that the themes or rather ‘feelings’ and images are beginning to surface.
"I’m not sure what the audience will feel or see, but as I act I feel certain ‘urges’ moving through my character. I long to escape, through drugs, through love, through self-harm, through co-dependency, through a suspended sense of belief, and a delusional hope for a fantastical future. I see people around me, disenfranchised members of society, lying to themselves and others. I see people that are essentially children dressed up in their parent’s clothes pretending to be adults, inventing a life filled with purpose and meaning."
"However when it comes to what the audience will experience, I just hope they see victims rather than criminals; victims of their own situations and the antagonist, ice."
Spencer has been sitting with the project for about a year and a half with some final edits only completed about a week ago. The challenges of bringing a work from mind to stage can be intensive, but one of the difficulties in this case was finding a director who shared a similar vision for the play as Spencer did. "I was so lucky to be introduced to the talented Jasper Bagg. As well as his enthusiasm and abundance of ideas for the show, Jasper recognized that the naturalistic language of Glasshouse didn’t necessarily denote naturalism. As the characters sink further into their own surreal worlds, the audience comes along. Jasper then brought together an incredible cast. We’re very lucky!"
"Another major difficulty I bumped into too many times to count was; myself. I feel qualified enough to call myself an actor because I have a degree and experience, but I had nothing to back myself up as writer, only my love of putting pen to paper. I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of no-nonsense people around me, so when I vent my insecurities I often just get a look and some brief advice; ‘just do it.’ Okay. I will."
Once written, most writers step away from a play to leave it in the hands of creatives who form it for the stage but Spencer has dual ownership of her work – an interesting vested interest that seems to have many more positives than negatives.
"As an actor I love being directed. I thrive off the challenge of taking someone else’s informed suggestions and making them my own. This has been the exact same situation when it comes to the script – I’ve never felt precious about it, it needs an amalgamation of ideas to truly bring it to life so it can speak to others."
"It is interesting being the playwright as well as the actor. When I write a play I write from instinct, I flick my brain between all the different characters like a one-woman show, I never really analyze the text. So to then go into rehearsals as an actor and go through the text analysis, I’ve learnt a lot about myself. It’s said we write from our own experiences; when it came to Glasshouse I didn’t think this was true. However I’m finding myself and my own experiences and opinions in all the characters (it’s not obvious, but when we dig it’s there). This is something I did not expect."
"I act because I love working collaboratively, I’m interested in exploring relationships with each other and the world we live in, nothing exists in a void. So to go from writing a script, which was quite a private process, to sharing it with my fellow creatives has been a joy. I am foremost an actor so I have such an admiration when an actor takes ownership over a character and creates something so incredibly real – whether it is or isn’t true to the assumptions originally made when writing the script, as long as the choice has purpose and still serves the narrative, it’s valid."
March 17 – 21