The Way Out is described as very Charlize Theron and Mad Max in that it’s set in a dystopian future in a Victorian town, after there has been a massive civil war between the north and the south of Australia over access to a diminishing water supply and the government release of pollutants has killed off all vegetation and many people.

The Way Out is Josephine Collins’ first full length play, and this exciting work runs until September 24 at Red Stitch Thetare.

Read on as Josephine Collins discusses her inspiration for the work, themes and all bits in-between.

– what or who was your inspiration for this work and why a full length play given this is your first

 My director Penny Harpham was undoubtedly the greatest source of inspiration for The Way Out. Her intellect, humour and uncompromising commitment to her values made me immediately want to make art with her. She happened to be a director, so I wrote her a play based on a short story I had kicking around at the time. I commenced the process as an enthusiastic but entirely uncritical observer of theatre, with no understanding of the internal mechanisms of a play. Years of work with Penny and at Red Stitch Actors Theatre taught me to wrangle the thing into a short, sharp and fast-paced piece of drama without losing any of the details I have dreamed up over the years. Had I been more experienced I would certainly have been less ambitious in the breadth and complexity of the world I have created – I am glad I wasn’t.

– what are some of the themes explored and why are these significant to you

The Way Out explores the human inclination to maintain existing systems for survival despite their flaws, even when the possibility for redemption presents itself. It examines the dynamic between older and younger generations, pitting the drive to secure and conserve against the bold, naïve and necessary belief in change that drives history forward. Reflecting on it now, it has become clear to me these themes are born directly from my anxiety about our sluggish response to climate change.

The play depicts a society constructed in the aftermath of atrocity in which the denial of culpability has become a tool for survival. As a young, white Australian, the history of this country has been hidden from me my whole life: brushed over on the school curriculum; downplayed and diminished in public discourse. I don’t feel able to write any sort of truth about our violent colonial history. What I have written about instead is the pervading sense that something terrible has not been acknowledged, and that until it is, we cannot move forward.

Most of all though, The Way Out is about family and community – the perpetual sources of love and humour and care that redeem us and allow us to face, again and again, the messes we make of the world. Nothing is more important to me.


– as a creative, what sort of themes and stories excite you when writing

I’m drawn to complex plots in which multiple characters keep their true motivations hidden from each other and the audience. I enjoy the challenge of constructing a world’s worth of details, nuances and secrets; concealing them; then working out exactly when to reveal them to achieve the most dramatic power.

 – what literary process (if any) do you find more gratifying – short story writing or script writing and is your approach to the writing of these the same or different – in what way

I am instinctively drawn to prose because I love playing with words and it gives me as much room as I like to express my own sense of humour and delight with the world. With a script I am bound to the humour and world-view of my characters – they dictate the words and attitudes I have to play with. The thing about scripts though, is that they are seeds: the beginnings of a magnificent process of creation shared by many people – at the moment I can’t think of anything more gratifying than that.

 – what are some of the emotions that you are feeling knowing that your script is coming to life in the hands of actors and will soon be viewed by the public

All the ones you’d expect: excitement, anxiety, hope, fear. The main thing going on for me at the moment though is an enormous amount of love for the brilliant team of artists working so tirelessly to make this work – our work – as wonderful as it can be.

– finally, what would you say to entice an audience to attend

The Way Out is a sci-fi western set in a future, post civil-war Australia. It’s funny and bleak and full of love, and examines the mercurial nature of the moral stance as long-held values strain under the drive to protect, at all costs, the people we love.

Runs till September 24