Panopticon Collective is excited to be presenting an Australian premiere play, Goblins, exploring six different stories of persecution through six different eras.

Written by company co-founder Jeni Bezuidenhout and writer, director and actor, Cassandra-Elli Yiannacou , the play examines themes of equality and acceptance.

Bezuidenhout’s creative fascination began with an image she had of many women tied together to a tree in colourful cloths. “I became curious as to why these women were all tied together,” she explains. “What made them stand out to me so undeniably.” Most of Bezuidenhout’s work starts with characters visually coming to her in strange, intriguing situations. “I started bouncing ideas off of the wonderful creative team I am surrounded with. These women all had one thing in common- they died because they did not meet society’s standards and therefore they were GOBLINS. Soon after Cassandra and I started chipping into a world we wanted to create.”

Amongst other things, Panopticon Collective prides itself on presenting new works that focus on, and explore, themes of national identity and social responsibility. Goblins is no different with both playwrights citing their preference to write about themes dealing with the human condition.

“People fascinate me,” says Yiannacou. “I really adore humanity, its weaknesses and strengths and passions. In that comes a lot of themes like love, anger, addiction. I’m also really passionate about politics and social justice, so I try and work with the issues I care about. I think you should always show the best and worst of your characters, as long as you’ve done that you’ve made them human and you’ve got something interesting.”

Bezuidenhout concurs and says her favourite topics are: people, injustice and responsibility. It is this sense of fairness that sees Bezuidenhout easily angered by injustice. The stuff she calls: “The lack of awareness. The blame, the shift of responsibility, the pack mentality.” Above all, she is interested in challenging people to question our society, to question and to take responsibility. “We are so easy to blame God,” she says. “But is it not us that create the religion, the rules? We are so easy to blame money. But is it not us that give it so much value and power? I am interested in exploring themes of change, of the potential to be proud of us as a human race. To look back and see change. How incredible would it be to look back and see years and years of people being accepted for who they are.”

Goblins examines a wide range of themes from the historical to the personal. “There’s a piece set in Ancient Greece that discuses body autonomy in the form of a story inspired by Antigone,” says University of Melbourne graduate, Yiannacou. “There’s a piece set during the witch trials but it deals with a personal betrayal.” She explains that the biggest issue that connects all the stories is that people were quick to judge their actions and demonize them because that’s what they were told to do. “They didn’t see people they saw a vehicle for whatever society wanted to put its fear and blame on, and that’s important because it happens to women every day. So often women aren’t see as people just objects, we really easily dehumanize 50% of the population to justify violent behaviour, or we can only feel sympathy when we connect them in relation to men; someone’s wife, or daughter, instead of just being considered someone.”

Writing a work in consultation with another is not always easy, so the creators took a very pragmatic approach: The six stories were divided between the two who then wrote them, read the others contributions, making notes along the wayy. “In that sense it sounds pretty separate,” says Yiannacou, “but we’re both open to suggestions from the other.” Yiannacou acknowledges the different styles each has, but familiarity with each others writing allowed the ease within the partnership to foster mutual respect over any disagreements. “I really respect Jeni’s style and she respects mine, I think they complement each other.”

Bezuidenhout admits to having been very intimidated to write with Yiannacou. “I knew that no matter what she came up with she would find a way to build a fascinating world and that inspired me,” she says. However, at no point did she feel like it wasn’t collaboration, feeling continually respected, challenged and inspired. “I found that the writing process unfolded itself. The stories wrote themselves and I found a connection to each character and their stories. I hope that the writing will unfold to the audience as much as it did in the writing process for me. I hope that they can gain some understanding and awareness or curiosity into these lives. I feel like we chose to write about a very complex reality. From the outside it might be perceived like Cassandra and I have no idea what we are talking about. But I think that too is the point to it, the judgement that comes along with being young women. We are made up of our experiences and no one truly knows what experiences, hopes, pain, guilt and wonders we carry along with us.”

Bezuidenhout and Yiannacou are also actors in the work along with Eva Justine Torkkola, Isabelle Bertoli, Kellie Tori, and Luke Lennox. For Yiannacou, it’s a little disconcerting at times. Having always considered herself a writer before anything else, she is pretty critical of her own work. “I’ll read a line and think ‘urgh why did I write that, can I change it,” she muses. “I have to pretend it’s just any other script I’ve been given otherwise I’ll get too self-conscious. If I do that then I get to be a stranger in a world I built and discover new things, which is great.”

Ballarat Arts Academy graduate, Bezuidenhout, observes that it is strange to ‘taste’ her own words “… and sometimes it is easy to start over thinking the lines, start assessing them rather then trying to allow yourself to discover,” she says. “I find it hard to hear others say my lines. Everyone does such an amazing job and I start doubting myself…”Did I write that?” But I think it is the talented actors that really breathe life into those lines. They become alive and I see these real people. I am really lucky and I feel really honoured to be able to be so close during this process.”

Goblins is 6 theatre shows for the price of one. “If you don’t like it, the tickets are pretty cheap, so you’ve not lost anything more than two or three coffees,” jokes Yiannacou who goes on to say that the show deals with some pretty hard hitting things. “There’s some really special moments that have come together, it’s atmospheric and dark which I find really exciting.”

Bezuidenhout’s hope is that this piece can provoke something exciting from within. She believes the group is taking a lot of risks and exploring different ways of telling stories. “The voices telling them are very talented actors that will hopefully transport you to some exciting places and make you feel a roller-coaster of emotions. You as an audience is so much apart of making theatre. It is made for you. We have made something for you and without you, it’s not complete.”

December 7 – 9 or