Mary Rachel Brown is a multi-award-winning playwright. Last November, her Christmas piece Silent Night had its world premiere in a Darlinghurst Theatre Company production at Eternity Playhouse and was well received. Her latest work, Permission to Spin, is now having its world premiere season at Sydney’s Old Fitz Theatre.
Starring Yure Covich, Anna Houston and Arky Michael, Permission to Spin is described as a “funny till it’s not cage fight between art and ethics”, and a black comedy for anyone who thinks children’s music is “torture”.
“The kids’ music industry has a dark side, and Permission to Spin exposes it,” Brown tells Theatre People.
Asked about her inspiration in writing the piece, she mentions an article she read in The Guardian that discussed how music can be weaponised.
“You have to come to the play to understand what that means,” she says.
“In terms of personal experiences, I spent a few years performing in a formatted kids’ show that went on the road, so I have some insight into the children’s entertainment industry.”
She continues: “I had a friend that went out with the CEO of a record label, we had some wild nights out. Those nights informed some of the dialogue in the play.”
Brown shares what she thinks it is that makes Permission to Spin a great piece of theatre for 2018.
“It is set in the entertainment industry. It looks at the cult of celebrity and how it intersects with over-entitlement and [the] abuse of power. In that respect, this story is burning to be told now,” she says. “It looks at the culture of bullying and how it can travel all the way from the schoolyard to the office of a CEO – in this case, a music producer. The play also has a lot to say about the commodification of women within the entertainment industry.”
Brown talks about moving from the role of writer to the role of director of the piece.
“When writing I am queen, I can boss fictional characters around. I decide what they want and how they go about getting it,” she says. “As a director, you have to draw from the real-life actor’s instincts, that’s where the gold is. You are there to help them find their way, as opposed to telling them what to do. Too much perception is death to the actor-director relationship. You have to exercise a great degree of curiosity and patience. I think the biggest attribute that serves both the writer and director is a sense of burning curiosity.
“As a writer there is more room to daydream. In fact, day dreaming is part of the job. The directorial focus within a contained rehearsal period left no room for day dreaming.”
Brown is co-directing Permission to Spin with Dino Dimitriadis, Artistic Director and Executive Producer of Apocalypse Theatre Company.
“Dino has directed two shows at the Old Fitz, so he has been a great guide on how the theatre works spatially,” she says, “and he has a fine dramaturgical mind.”
Brown has a history with the Woolloomooloo pub that dates back several years.
“I worked at the Old Fitz as an actor over twenty years ago,” she says. “It is a great space, the intimacy means there is nowhere to hide, you see every drop of sweat and every blink of the eyelid. Permission to Spin is a one-hour pressure cooker; it happens in one room in linear time, the close confines of the venue add to the tension of the work.”
And is there something she would like audiences to take away from their experience seeing Permission to Spin?
“I would like them to reflect on the difference between art and marketing. Often the line is blurred,” Brown says. “Music is often misused as a marketing tool, an obvious and horrific example of this is the use of Bruce Springsteen’s song ‘Born in The USA’ for the Trump campaign. Permission to Spin draws some brutal conclusions about the exploitation of creative content.”
PERMISSION TO SPIN – SEASON DETAILS
Dates: Playing now until 28 July, 2018
Venue: Old Fitz Theatre (129 Dowling Street, Woolloomooloo)
Performance times: Tuesday – Saturday: 8:00 PM; Sunday: 5:00 PM; Saturday 21 & 28 July: 2:00 PM
Tickets: $33.00 – $55.00
Running time: 65 minutes (no interval)
Additional information: Recommended for ages 16+