Outback Learning: Taking up residence in Warialda
11 Aug 2022
Growing up in regional South Australia, Alice has always cherished any opportunity to engage with live theatre. She has carried on her mother's passion for theatre and now has the opportunity to share this love with her sons.
Alice has given us some insights about how her relationship with Shakespeare has evolved from childhood to adulthood to motherhood- you can read the full interview below.
Tell us about what theatre means to you.
Theatre has always been an important part of my life. Growing up in rural South Australia and NSW, any opportunity to see live professional performances was highly prized. My mother was a great lover of literature and theatre, and saw as much of the Adelaide Festival as she could manage, plus any troupes that toured regional areas as part of the Festival. I still have all her original programs. I can’t remember my own first experience of live theatre, but it has always been in my life thanks to her. I then carried on the legacy with my own children, instilling a love of theatre as soon as they were old enough to sit through a performance. All of the Arts hold a vitally important place in our communities - to provide expression of our own feelings/experiences and to give perspectives and engender understanding of others' journeys and experiences.
How has your relationship with Shakespeare grown during the different stages of your life?
I was drawn, at an early age, to the drama of the stories and I can’t recall a time that Shakespeare’s words were not with me. I have always loved poetry and it was this aspect of Shakespeare that first engaged me as a young adult. Of course, my understanding (or perception) of the texts has developed over my lifetime. My own experience of love, tragedy and loss has expanded my appreciation of the truth of life expressed so neatly by Shakespeare. Truths that matter - writ large - with a sprinkle of humour to illuminate the darkness. I had a very clear demonstration of how our age/period of life affects our perception of Shakespeare when I took my then teenage son to see Romeo and Juliet. I was not particularly engaged with the story but was enjoying the performance, however, I noticed the impact it was having on him. His face was lit up and he spoke volubly afterwards about the pair of lovers and how he understood their feelings and passion.
All of the Arts hold a vitally important place in our communities - to provide expression of our own feelings/experiences and to give perspectives and engender understanding of others' journeys and experiences.
How did you come to engage with Bell Shakespeare?
My mother-in-law started a Christmas tradition of giving a yearly subscription to the Canberra Theatre season for the family. My two sons were then included once they were in late primary school/early high school. I can’t remember when it was, but the first Bell performance I saw was Macbeth with the witches portrayed as aliens. The presentation of the play was so different to anything I had seen before - the text came alive! We have tried to see any production that came to Canberra. Now living in Sydney, it is such a glory to be able to access more!
Do you have a favourite Bell Shakespeare production?
My number one favourite for now is the Antony and Cleopatra production including Catherine McClements and Johnny Carr. It was the first time I had seen the lustful madness of their passion so palpably portrayed - the sweat of sexual desire dripped from the stage. It was a beautiful staging with the curtain and the soundscape. My breath was taken away! Before seeing this my favourite was the production of Othello with Wayne Blair in the lead role. Such an exciting, dynamic performance. We were in the third row in the Canberra Theatre Centre Playhouse and could see the sweat on the performers' face and their spit spraying with the force of expression. I am eagerly awaiting my next ‘favourite’.
...the first Bell performance I saw was Macbeth with the witches portrayed as aliens. The presentation of the play was so different to anything I had seen before - the text came alive!
Recently you dedicated a Seedling in our new space at Pier 2/3, which read “Mine ear is open, and my heart prepared”. What inspired you to choose this quote?
I know that the quote in context is about the delivery of bad news, but for me it describes how I feel each time I watch a Bell Shakespeare performance. My ears vibrate with the wonder of the words and my heart is filled with joy. It is a visceral experience!
Is there anything else you would like to share with the Bell Shakespeare community?
One of the main reasons I support Bell Shakespeare is the engagement with schools in regional areas and educational resources provided. It would have made a world of difference to me, as a teenager, to have had contact with a resource like this. It goes beyond keeping the history and text alive. I believe it is important for young people in regional areas to have an opportunity to be involved in a broader experience of the world than they may have access to. For me personally, it would have been the knowledge there were others like me in the world. I feel it is a great privilege to support the company in their work.